Resident Helps Document Lake Tahoe's History
Nestled among the chiseled Sierra Nevada mountains and towering sequoias that surround Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America, sits a testimony to the area’s rich history.
There the Lake Tahoe Historical Society runs a local history museum where the story of Tahoe is preserved through artifacts, film and photos.
Much of the documentation is credited to Anna Taylor, 87, who moved from Chicago to Kelly Ridge in South Lake Tahoe five years ago.
When the volunteer-driven museum underwent a major overhaul in 2009 it became clear that the photos, newspaper clippings and postcards donated by local families, which had been condemned to storage boxes for years, deserved some attention.
“There was no one who ever came forward who had the skill set or desire to do that type of work,” says Diane Johnson, president of the Lake Tahoe Historical Society and the museum’s chairperson.
Until Taylor stepped in, that is. Having some basic computer knowledge from a long career with a telephone company as well as a few classes she took after retirement, Taylor learned the ins and outs of historical documentation. “She took to it like a duck to water,” says Johnson.
Taylor spends two days a week volunteering at the museum, where she sorts and scans the material, categorizes it by number, and records important details about each item. Johnson estimates Taylor, who also happens to be her mother-in-law, has scanned upward of 6,000 pieces.
“Some of them are so old the newspapers are cracked. We have to patch them together,” Taylor says. Her most recent project involves documenting a collection of postcards dating as far back as 1904.
For Taylor the work is all about connecting younger generations to their history.
“If you came in and you had a grandmother who lived up here years ago, you can tell us something you might like to see and someone might have donated the information,” she says.
Leaders from other museums who visit often inquire about Taylor’s work.
“They say to her, ‘Oh, I wish we had somebody like you. I wish we had somebody who would step up and learn this skill,’” says Johnson.
Taylor is no stranger to giving her time to others. She has embraced every volunteer opportunity she could since retiring, even working at one time as a docent at Chicago’s Harold-Washington Library Center. Her generosity continued when she made the move to Lake Tahoe.
“She’s always there to lend a hand,” says Jullie Shanks, Kelly Ridge’s administrator.
The level of care and seriousness Taylor puts into her work at the museum makes her an invaluable asset, says Johnson.
“We have a staff of wonderful volunteers,” Johnson says. “These folks, my mother-in-law being one of my favorite, are moving this little local treasure forward.”