Sharon Taylor Oral History

Dublin Core


Sharon Taylor Oral History


Sharon Taylor Oral History


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


April 1991


Analog Cassette Tape, .Docx File, MP3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Jacobsen (First name unknown)


Sharon Taylor


Interview with Sharon E. Taylor

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.


JACOBSEN: Say um what I’ve already told you and let’s say what’s your biggest satis…let’s start out with what your biggest satisfaction has been in the 11 months and…11 years and…

TAYLOR: Thirteen years.

JACOBSEN: 13 years and… uh… 11 months, is that what it is?

TAYLOR: 12 years, 11 months.

JACOBSEN: Okay, yes.

TAYLOR: Close enough to 13.

JACOBSEN: Why don’t we just say almost 13 years?


JACOBSEN: What's been your biggest satisfaction and uh let’s go from there.

TAYLOR: Okay. Well, there's no one thing you know. It's too easy…uh, to try to reduce all that time into one thing which would be just impossible, but there are several things that I see as kind of, uh, things that flow together that make…that come together that make the museum what it is today that I'm real proud about. The first one is the one that nobody realizes except maybe some of the early county commissioners and the county manager and myself…uh and some of the older hostesses who are no longer with us. Irene Ross who used to have to help Jess Braun mop the floor at the museum before they even had carpet. But um… Safeway buildings once received an award from architectural designers for having the most poorly designed corporate roof of any corporation. You know this is true, this is really true. It's not something funny. I mean, I even saw the magazine article, so the fact that the first… in the first ten years of the time I was there my emphasis was on upgrading the facility and working with the county to do that and also with the association and when I came we had a burglar alarm that was improperly installed and did not work most of the time, whenever the power was off. That sort of thing, uh… which is probably when you really need it. The roof leaked, and we had hunks of concrete falling off the parapet cap, and there were several real problems with the building, and so that was our first emphasis. Better burglar care, better fire care. The fire alarm used to ring just outside the building, and it was only a sprinkler alarm. There was no tie-in to the police department so that somebody would have to either see water coming out the front door which eventually they would or get tired of the noise and call and I know they did get tired of the noise because we had some problems one time that was really funny. When we were putting in the new system and the museum association worked with the county which is really fantastic because they save the taxpayers a lot of money and providing the very best possible care. That museum is phenomenal for the size community, and people do not believe what the plant is like…the physical plant is like, you know, and what we have there. It's just amazing. The funny story is that…

JACOBSEN: So, one of the things that you're most proud of is improving the physical plant and the protection of the physical plant.

TAYLOR: Right. And that's everything that goes from the burglar and fire alarm which are state-of-the-art, and they've been upgraded several times…

JACOBSEN: To the roof

TAYLOR: Yeah and to repair the roof. To the…

JACOBSEN: Side doors.

TAYLOR: Yep. Well, we had roll-up doors that never opened, and you know you can hurt your back trying to open them to insulated fire doors that are easy to open with closures and that sort of thing.

JACOBSEN: Okay, that’s…then the funny part now.

TAYLOR: Well, the funny thing I was thinking about how the first alarm you wouldn't think people would call, but if something wakes them up at three in the morning. When we first put in our new alarm system, um they had a couple of problems, and they had a fancy alarm outside. It was the burglar alarm that went off, not the fire alarm 'cause we never really had a problem with that, but the burglar alarm went off about three in the morning, and Mayor Mert [Domonoske] got awakened by an irate citizen complaining, [laughing] and I heard about it, and I kind of laughed. I said, "Well, it's a good thing he's got a good disposition," 'cause that's county not city. [laughing] I laughed 'cause I just thought what they thought they'd accomplished by waking the mayor up at three in the morning when the museum's burglar's alarm went off. But uh we've worked on that, and everything's fine now, but it was quite humorous, some of the stories.

JACOBSEN: Okay. Now would you continue on in the same line? Another thing that gives you the most pleasure in relation to the museum.

TAYLOR: I think the care of the collections. There are things that I remember that were not done properly. And I had a lot of on-the-job training. I didn't come in knowing everything there is to know. I still don't, and I've got thirteen years of experience, but I did know how to ask and who to ask. And so when I came in I saw that there were several things. One of the things were the old photographs. The originals were on display and…


TAYLOR: That you know…that is…if you know how photographs deteriorate, that's frightening because one of the things that we didn't have at that time were what they called ultraviolet bulb shields so things were open to being…to being faded and that sort of thing, so that was one of the things that we started right away with the board. The board just said, "Let's jump right in, and let's get going. Let's do whatever we need to do." And uh you know a lot of those board members…Susan McCormick is the only one that is still on the board who has been on the board the entire time I was there. At the time Judy Selinder was the chairman and then following her, Frank Woodliff Jr. …the III

JACOBSEN: The third.

TAYLOR: Excuse me. Frank Woodliff III worked with me for a long time. He was an excellent chairman. The quilt cases were completed during that time and things to take care of special collectible items and that was a really important time. We were looking at things. There was discussion, and the board committed to a photograph project then in the very early stages of making copy negatives of all of our originals.

JACOBSEN: And this has to be around 197…1980.

TAYLOR: 1979.


TAYLOR: Actually we ordered our camera. I think we got all of our camera gear by 1979.

TAYLOR: The quilt cases were finished, and I think the camera came about 1979.

JACOBSEN: Just so you give me some sign posts.

TAYLOR: Yeah, well you know…what you need to do. Bunny [Corkill] has an index card file of all of the minutes, and it has when purchases were made. You can check that card file. Just ask her where it is. You can go back and verify dates 'cause going by my memory is not always good because it might be a little bit later. But they were really concerned about the photographic record, and that was something that I was really excited about because I just had come from the California State Railroad Museum, and one of my jobs as researcher was running down old photographs. And you know, the more that you work around them and see their potential for information and for helping historians flush out the written record, whatever there is of it, the more you, you know, end up like me. You're just an old photo addict. You want to see that they're taken care of. You want to get all of the information. You want to do everything you can with them to protect them, and you want to use them in every way you can from slide shows-which you know, you make a copy of the old ones and make a slide--to things like I'm going to be doing with video and you know, all kinds of different medium. So, those are kinds of things that, you know, the care of specific things. I was laughing 'cause everybody has to complain it seems like. That seems to be the state of the world. They go into that back room and they complain, well there's no this, or there's no that. My brother came up to help me when I first got this job, and we went in the back room. This was about August 'cause I started in May, 1978, and I looked in that back room and I about had a heart attack because you could only walk about five feet from where that divider was, and then there were boxes piled and they were piled all the way to the wall, and they formed a corner, and they were about eight feet high, and they were just boxes. Along the wall where Myrl's desk and the computer is and the photo area is was a workbench with a bunch of tools, and there was a saw sitting there, and there was sawdust all over the floor 'cause they used the saw in a storage room which is you know [laughing] you looked at the mess and you went, "What's in the boxes?" "Well, we don't really know because things just haven't been checked on, and we just don't know where anything is." And I hear this, "We don't know where anything is," and I say, "Things are so much better." You have to put it in perspective.

JACOBSEN: Yes. Now, you are saying, that things are so much better.

TAYLOR: Oh, yes. Now things are so much better. It's just like anything when you're trying to keep a constant track on probably around twenty thousand items at least, and that's not counting photographs because we have over a hundred thousand photographs, but I'm talking about three dimensional objects and that sort of thing. And you use them in different displays. When you have to put your fingers on something, sometimes it takes you a little time, but things are so much better than they were. But, I remember my brother coming in and we're moving that saw around.

JACOBSEN: What was your brother's name?


JACOBSEN: Is your brother’s name.

TAYLOR: Yeah, it still is. It's Jim

JACBOSEN: Jim, okay.

TAYLOR: Yeah and he came…

JACOBSEN: Edaburn.

TAYLOR: Yeah. He came because he could help lift some of the bigger things and move things around. And there were, there were sheets of sheet rock leaning against the wall. It took us about a week just to get so that we could see that back wall by moving things around and going through things. We go in there now and you see metal shelving and shelving and work tables and modul areas where people can work and, and you know…

JACOBSEN: And computers.

TAYLOR: Yeah, computers, and all of these other things, and it's clean. I mean, it's clean compared--you know, we've got dust once in a while. You gotta you know… It's hard to get up and dust everything, but it's so different and so much more organized.

JACOBSEN: In saying this, you're not putting anybody down. They just didn't have the staff.

TAYLOR: No. And, also, I don't think at the time, they weren't just sure how they were going to go. They weren't probably as aggressive at trying to get money as the board became, and you know that became their direction. One of my favorite trustees was, is Ed Clayton. He'd always, when a couple of the board members wouldn't want to spend money, he'd always say, "This association and these trustees were not set up to be bankers." [laughing] That was, that was one of my favorite things because he was definitely a very progressive board member. He wanted to see things taken care of and the first changeable… That was one of the other things is have something to change because when I came pretty much everything was the way that it was in 1968, except there were new things. Of course, new things had come in and some people had taken things out. There were, of course, changes, but the basic core after about say the first five years, I wouldn’t say ’68 but say about 1973, 1974, things were pretty much stable, but it was discussed and the idea of having changeable displays and things that rewarded the local people to come in, to make it exciting for them, 'cause you know we’re not… I never felt that the museum was a tourist museum. It was so different. If you go and talk to the nice folks in Winnemucca and their chamber of commerce, they see their museum as a tourist museum. You go talk to the people here, some of them that is their focus, but the board's direction and the county's direction have always been to serve the community. That's the kind of museum I like. That's the one where you've really got teeth, and you can do things, and you can explore alternatives and really become a part of the community. You're not just worrying about the guy who comes by with two bucks in his pocket. So that was always the I think…

JACOBSEN: The two bucks you're talking about is the donation?

TAYLOR: Either the donation or they spent it in the community. You know, you slow them down enough to have a hamburger.

JACOBSEN: Oh I see. I see what you’re saying.

TAYLOR: Howard Hickson has always, at the museum in Elko, has always said that museums should make their communities aware of how much they help the local economy. If you have to go that way, they need to be aware that the American Association of Museums did a study ten years ago, and for every visitor that signs that guest book, they figure they spent seven dollars in the community. Gas… And that's local and also out-of-town, gas, food, whatever. So, even though the museum is not generating revenue, it is bringing people into the community and with the tie with Hidden Cave, we've received some very positive national publicity. We've been featured in Sunset Magazine twice. We've been in Archaeology which is a national magazine about archaeology, and they run a regular thing on places to go each year and there's, of course, information about Hidden Cave in the museum. Let’s see…those are the major ones you know. Then there are some other little things. We are continually getting in the Nevada Magazine and, also, in the smaller magazines. Before Lynn Faren who was one of the chief writers got bumped up to editor of Motorland, she had come out and done a preliminary thing on Fallon and on the museum, and I thought I'd send her a little note and remind her. You know, she's editor, she'd better get her story done [laughing] 'cause we need it now more than ever.

JACOBSEN: Okay, go onto some, some other things that have made you feel good about.

TAYLOR: Well, let’s see if there is any, any other thing about collections care that I’m thinking about. I'm real excited about the completion of the Woodliff building which is something the board really wanted to do, and the Woodliff family, of course. And now…Now this year we've really got it set up nice in a way that people can go in. We had problems at first trying to find a way because of the lack of staffing to have it open to the public, but I think that now that we have stabilized it and when Dan gets finished with what little bit he has to do, it's really going to make a difference.

JACOBSEN: Go ahead. Now lets…Are there any other things that you want to bring…?

TAYLOR: Well, like I say, there's so many things. Um, the Woodliff building, and, of course, the completion of the annex is exciting. We had talked about plans. We have the beginnings of a very fine mining/milling exhibit and some plans for a canopy that would cover most of the collections and allow them to be restored, the outside collections, and so those are going to be decisions that are made by the board and the new director but...

JACOBSEN: Okay, so let's go back into your era and your times.

TAYLOR: We acquired a lot of things that if I hadn't been there would not have been acquired. Machinery, tools, things that are not normally the things that people think of, at least they didn't used to be, when they thought about the Churchill County Museum. We have tripled our exterior display materials including some really choice agricultural pieces that um… are representative of the valley and early, early agriculture. Also, some fine road building equipment. Um you know, stuff that, maybe, right now everybody looks out and they see rusty iron, and they go, "Oh," you know but even ten years from now what we have is going to be significant because people aren't saving. They aren't saving it at the Historical Society. They do get some of those things, but they have long, as far as I can tell, long run out of room in the state museum system for large pieces unless it's something really exceptional. So, that is going to be a very special collection, not only to the community, but to the state. I'm really proud of that because I always refer to those as my toys 'cause those are the things that I like. The rusty irons, the tractors, the…

JACOBSEN: Industrial equipment, so to speak.

TAYLOR: Yeah, all of those kinds of things that I had the privilege of visiting. Ranches and farms and hustling them a little bit for… Carl Dodge gave us that nice Case steam tractor from the Dodge Island Ranch, and that definitely is a premier piece. Of course, now we have the steam road roller that was used to build Lahontan Dam, so we have some real special things that are going to make our collection increasingly more significant in the state, particularly in dealing with agriculture and you know it's exciting to know that I was there, and I was able to help insure that some really special pieces were brought to the museum. For a person whose background was different might have emphasized something else and probably would have. That's the thing about a small museum and very often I've been guest lecturer at the university at their museology class and very often I have said that the reason that working in a small museum is so satisfying is that you know you bring your skills and you come and you pretty much get to just bring it up with you and that’s exciting…

JACOBSEN: So to shape it?

TAYLOR: Yeah, and shape it and form it to a degree. I always believe that to me that museum is not an inanimate thing. It's alive. It's going to be there long after we're all gone, and each one of the people who have been instrumental in shaping it, be it the director or a curator or whatever you want to call a person that runs it, the hostesses, the people who have donated things, the board members, the volunteers. Each one of those people have created this, this living thing that's the museum. It continues to grow. That's why I'm really excited about the potential for the new person coming in because that person's going to bring a whole new perspective of talents and ideas so then now the museum's going to flower again in a new way, perhaps. New ideas, new growth, new emphasis. Things that will help it you know go on to the next phase. That's what I really think a museum should do. I stayed there much longer than I normally stay at any place at any of the jobs I've had.

JACOBSEN: You were enjoying it so much.

TAYLOR: Yeah. There's always something else to do. There's always something else, and, of course, that mill. Boy! I hung a lot longer than I thought I would 'cause I kept seeing that mill. Cause that is…

JACOBSEN: What is this mill?

TAYLOR: Betty Paul and John, in honor of her late father, Pete Erb, donated a complete working turn-of-the-century gold and silver processing mill, and it's on the property although it's not set up. It's up against the building.

JACOBSEN: Full size?

TAYLOR: Yeah. We've got some plans that Greg drew up. We tore down a building. The city had one of those, I guess it was the blacksmith shop for the dam that was in that area where their new facility is and so the Boy Scouts helped tear the building down. We've got the rafters and everything, so if the new director is interested, and the board decides in the future they would like to do that project, there's certainly a lot of material there to make a building and set up the equipment in the position that it would be, how it would be used. It's fantastic. The most exciting thing about that was the piece, it's called the primary crusher, and it was made by the Nevada Machine Works in Reno which is really exciting. So you know I listen to the…

JACOBSEN: You could even get corporate sponsorship.

TAYLOR: Yeah. Well, we never know. I think they’re…They've been out of business a long time. The companies that are left bear no resemblance to that. I think Alfie Luke worked for Nevada Machine Works right around the turn of the century or shortly after. So, who knows, Alfie may have worked on that equipment that got cast 'cause it's about 1910, 1915. There are just so many things. Of course, meeting people in the community when you come in as someone from another area which is what I did, you don't know anybody, and it didn't take very long, and I knew lots of people. They invited me to share, not only their museum, but their lives and their community. Fallon is a very special place to me, and it will always be because of people who shared the history of their family. I really enjoyed talking to Nina and Hammie [Kent] about their ranch, and, of course, the article in In Focus that Anne Pershing, I believe, interviewed Hammie, and some of the old ranches, and, of course, working with Bunny Corkill and the people who've been there since the 1880s. That's so exciting to have that tie to the old and the new. Of course, Fallon's undergoing this explosive growth and changes. The whole community is changing, and those of things that, you know, there is no static. Everything has to change, and it's just something that you have to deal with. but the things I remember the most were the little things, getting to know the people in the community, the history of the community, reading about things, going out and exploring, finding out where things were. Of course, very early I got involved with the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] because I introduced myself, and the district manager came out to introduce himself and brought their archaeologist, Brian Hettoff, out which was a long and productive professional relationship, and he just left, too. He left just before I did and had been with the BLM for over fifteen years. He shared the vision that the BLM had in his vision of making archaeological sites in Churchill County educational sites in a way that wasn't being done anywhere else. That's why Churchill County has got so many firsts in terms of maybe the people around don't realize that how people coming in are so impressed with things. Particularly the museum, but also the level of the interpretive program that's done on an absolute shoestring 'cause they don't have much money by the BLM both at Grimes Point and Hidden Cave, and, of course, the dune buggy haven at Sand Mountain, but the historic and the prehistoric is emphasized at the first two sites. It's a fantastic thing for children. They really have a fine educational program and I would say that all of the community owes that to Brian's vision and the fact that that site received national attention. It was re-excavated at you know…


TAYLOR: …His work. He had to help coordinate the financing for it because they had to get grant monies.

JACOBSEN: That's how come he brought the American Museum in?

TAYLOR: Right. The American Museum of Natural History. Dr. David Hearst Thomas came. That was a joint project with the State Historic Preservation Office which is really called the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, the University of Nevada, the BLM, and the American Museum. So, there's four agencies That was a very, very fine project because the cave had been excavated twice before, and there was no report, and there is a very fine report. The information that they have obtained is really useful in understanding the climate and the change that was going on. It's so different. The things that they're learning around the cave are so different than what they're learning at the marsh area. The time periods are different, but yet there are some very interesting correlations that are being made. People maybe don't realize the significance of what they call pre-history in Churchill County before the written record. Both the native Americans that were in the area and even earlier when we go into the natural history and discuss the prehistoric animals. One of the things that they have been trying to do for many years is to document an early man site, and in Nevada that would be about twelve thousand years ago. Document an early man site where you have the bones of these very early large animals, elephants--called the mammoths then--giant bison. Much larger. I was thinking about how large that long horn looks that the gentleman rides in the parade and how small it is compared to a prehistoric bison and, you know, some of the other animals that were alive ten, eleven, twelve thousand years ago when the climate and the amount of water that was here was very different. That's another thing that I'm proud of. I have really made an effort to let everyone know that we support scientific research and try to encourage that. In fact, that's something that I'm doing as a private citizen now is trying to get a survey done of the county trust lands which is a project we've tried to get through the legislature two times and you know...

JACOBSEN: Is this some of the reason you went with Charlie Gomes and his airplane to survey the Stillwater Marshes and all?

TAYLOR: Well, the first time I went with Charlie Gomes and his airplane, Charlie came to see me. Remember how I explained how people came to me?

JACOBSEN: (tape dropped) Um, yeah we still have some more side on this tape.

TAYLOR: Alright, remember how I explained how people came to me?


TAYLOR: I hadn't been there very long and Charlie came and he says, "I've got an airplane. I want you to come with me. I want to show you something. I'm trying to find out, it’s something I found from the air." There's been talk of various times, but we went out to the site known as the Pebble Mounds which is a very fascinating thing. Well, after a lot of work with Amy Dansia, of the State Museum, and Charlie, we eventually interested the Desert Research Institute. They actually did a lengthy study on the runoff technology and also corresponded with people in Israel who have a similar technology, but it's a lost technology. It's not something that they you know…that's in their historic record.

JACOBSEN: This same thing I was talking about China, is that the same ones that we were talking about near Hazen and all?

TAYLOR: We've never been able to verify a similar site in China.

JACOBSEN: But this is the same thing. I'm just trying to refresh my memory. This is the ones about runoff waters . . .

TAYLOR: But it was in Israel, not China.

JACOBSEN: Yeah, but I said I'd seen them in China.

TAYLOR: Yeah and I need…That would be very interesting. We need to verify that if you can give me some people that we can contact. Because that was something we had discussed as a potential because it's very hard to date them since there are very little artifact material that's found in the area, and um…

JACOBSEN: Sharon, I’m going to get you back on the track now cause I want you to…

TAYLOR: Mm-hm.

[Something was lost while recording during the turning of the tape to side two.]

TAYLOR: It’s about um…I'm sure it's late 1978, early 1979. He [Charlie Games] did it shortly after I came that he came. Of course he shared with me a lot of his knowledge of the valley , and, of course, being able to fly with such an excellent pilot has always been great fun and you know the museum has two official pilots, Les Pearce and Charlie. Through their good graces I was able to fly and photograph a lot of the area, both archaeological sites and historic, take pictures for slide shows and things that we later did about the Newlands Project and irrigation and all of those sorts of things. So, I have just really been spoiled in that respect to have the two of them share that with me because I love to fly. I don't want to fly an airplane because that takes too much time. I want to hang out the window with my camera and take pictures. They have both been very positive. You mentioned the burials, and that is something that is still a problem area with us that we have tried... That's part of trying to get what we call a county trust land archeological survey. There's no way of knowing the extent of that without a comprehensive survey. We've gone to the state legislature twice, and, of course, the governor's budget hatchet lady takes care of it before it even gets out of her office. And um, you know DRI (Desert Research Institute) is really great, what they are anticipating now is a different focus but it will encompass the geology, and they have asked me to work with them kind of as a volunteer advisory kind of thing to help them work with the county, too. So I anticipate probably having some meetings in the future. I know Dr. Stephanie Livingston will be one of the most active along with um…uh…Dr. uh…I think they call him Dusty…Dusty Miller--I can't remember his first name right now 'cause I just met him. We were, of course, all quite shocked when Dr. Jonathan Davis was killed by a drunk driver. I had just talked to him that week or just tried to... He had returned my call, and we missed each other. We had just found out that they had been dropped from the governor's budget.

JACOBSEN: Okay, I'm going to get you back again onto the conversation about the pleasures that you've had. Do you want to talk about some of the things that you didn't accomplish or monkey wrenches in the situation or things like that?

TAYLOR: Uh no, because those may have just been my problems or problems of group dynamics and that sort of thing. And things are done--you can't do everything, and things are done, I think, in the proper time. We have always managed to try, and it takes time when you're working with a very small staff. We have a lot of volunteers, but it was only the last couple of years that we had two full time people. The rest of them are part-time, and, of course, the hostesses have the job of greeting the public which is very, very important. In fact, it is… that is the image that the people have of the community very often is through their interaction with the hostess…

JACOBSEN: And host.

TAYLOR: And host. Yes, oh yes. We have such fine people working there, and it was always a pleasure to know that I never had a concern about how someone would be treated when they came in. Even the most cantankerous or difficult customer received very positive and exciting service from the people because they believe in what they're doing. That's what makes the museum special.

JACOBSEN: Okay, um… here we go…

TAYLOR: Okay, uh we're going to skip back so when you do your cut and paste, I had been discussing changeable displays.


TAYLOR: Um, the first one we did was really a lot of fun, and it was called the Encyclopedia of Collectibles. We got these letters, these beautiful ceramic letters from A to Z, and then we went around into the community--of course, we got a lot of stuff from the museum collection, too, but we got a little bit of everything.

JACOBSEN: Do we have any pictures of it at the museum?

TAYLOR: No. That was, that was done…

JACOBSEN: Pre-, pre-photography?

TAYLOR: Yeah, well I didn't have a flash for the camera yet. [laughing]

JACOBSEN: No excuse. Go ahead.

TAYLOR: Well, you know, we didn't have any volunteer photographers then or staff photographers either, but I remember how much fun it was running down all of these odds and ends of things. Skip Cann and his dad, Beale, collect what they call one-lung engines, so we had a gasoline engine. We had a guy who collected spark plugs, and he had 1896 spark plugs from automobiles, you know, which was just amazing.

JACOBSEN: He had one thousand eight hundred ninety-six spark plugs, or he had from the year 1896?

TAYLOR: The year 1896. It was the year that was amazing to me, and they had what they called primer plugs. You had to put gasoline in them, you know...

JACOBSEN: To make them go.

TAYLOR: It was amazing. We got to get our X, Susan McCormick's little boy, John, loaned us his xylophone. Z, we had [laughing] a model zeppelin. [laughing] All the hard letters were covered, and, of course, G we had glassware. We had, you know, we had everything that you can imagine that people collect. Buttons and bows, dishes, and it was so much fun doing. That was the first changeable exhibit, and it was great fun. We had reception when we opened it.

JACOBSEN: Yeah, I remember it.

TAYLOR: The one thing that I hope disappears from the museum, never to be seen again is a changeable display I got involved with that I should never have done, and that was that stupid mammoth. I hate that. (laughing)

JACOBSEN: We’re in agreement.

TAYLOR: That is a changeable display area, and they have forbidden me to take it down just because the kids like it. Well, the kids like other things, too, so, hopefully, they'll be less inflexible with the new director. [laughing] The changeable exhibits were a lot of fun, and then we got involved with the photographing exhibits. Shadow Catchers was our first grant. Those all tie together. We found out that there's money out there, and all you have to do is spend a lot of time and tell them why you want it and have a good reason.

JACOBSEN: Write it right.

TAYLOR: We have been extremely successful, and that was a joint effort between Myrl Nygren and myself. She always did the financial stuff. Although she wasn't involved with Shadow Catchers, we actually had a consultant that came and did all of that, Wally Cuchine. But it was so exciting to provide those kinds of things. We had many tours. We took the exhibits, both Shadow Catchers and our desert farm, One Day at a Time: The Desert Farm, were shown at the state legislature for the legislators and I know the Humanities Committee was really proud of the first exhibit, the Shadow Catchers, and it was also at their big annual meeting.

JACOBSEN: The Shadow Catchers was the photography. The early Nevada photography.

TAYLOR: Right. What we did is we picked nine photographers who had photographed in Churchill County beginning in, in 1867 was the first photographer. We featured five of their works and a little bit of history about each one. That was, that was an exceptional project. That was delightful. Of course, I got a chance to meet Albert Alcorn and, of course, Mary Foster who I just adore. Their gifts to the community in history and in their art, of course, are very well known.

JACOBSEN: And you got her camera, too. Didn’t you?

TAYLOR: Yeah, we later were able to secure her cameras.

JACOBSEN: Tripod and all.

TAYLOR: Yeah, the whole thing was Mary's studio cameras, so we not only had the work of the years of their photography, but we also had the cameras that they used. Of course, Albert donated a very fine collection of his cameras. You know the very old cameras to…My favorite is the little tiny spy camera that he had. That was also a very fulfilling and very exciting thing, too, to see the development and photo collection and project and go on from there. So, that gives you an idea of the exhibits are an outgrowth of the care of the collections and uh…of the growth of the photo collection and that sort of thing. Then we found that we could get money to help us with projects so that we wouldn't have to continually spend the money that the museum association was developing and so it was a real positive input that we received. Those are things that I see as real positive, real exciting things and, of course, one of the things, as I explained to Michon Mackedon yesterday, that gave me the most pleasure is working with her over the last four years as the--I was really the technical editor as associate editor of In Focus. I had always felt that we need something tangible for people to…They can go into the museum and they can see the things and experience it, but not everybody comes to the museum, and so I had hoped that…there were two things that I got really involved in with the idea that the museum would reach people in a way that they don't normally. I got suckered into helping build that television station, um the public television station which I will not discuss further [laughing] because I felt that someday the museum could develop the use of that medium to reach people who don't normally go to museums or um, you know, read, [laughing] and I understand that that's a large majority of the general public in the United States, but, anyway, that was my long-range goal was to have a medium to allow the museum to explore that and to try and educate people. No, it has never happened, but one person can only do so much.

JACOBSEN: Okay, now go on to In Focus.

TAYLOR: The one that did pan out and was really exciting, and, of course, it came because we had such a neat person who is the editor, and that's Michon. She has a natural talent for going into somebody's writing and leaving the flavor in tact. All she does is just corrects a few things, suggests maybe a few changes, but she has that light touch that makes everything unified. That, that book…you know, you can take that book anywhere and people will not believe where it came from. Number one, that little tiny town in the middle of nowhere. It is a quality publication. I think it's much better than the ones that are being put out by state agencies that have a lot more money than we do. It represents, of course, the community, and what the community likes, the history, the things of the community, so, in that respect, it's not something that sells like the Enquirer or one of the other tabloids, but many of the board members are very supportive of that as something the museum is doing for the future. It's getting the written word, getting the history down so that people will remember because we can talk a lot or we can do… we can save the three-dimensional objects, but without some discussion about the community and the place that those things have so much can still be lost. That is really exciting, and I've had a lot of fun. Of course, I like fiddling around with the photographs and stuff and the computers, of course. That was the one thing in the grant project for the Alcorn project in designing the computer equipment which is going to be my profession is working in computers and specifically working in computers for record keeping and also for the use of photography and digitizing and that sort of thing. The reason that we had such success with that system is because it is not an IBM system. That's the one thing I run into all the time is the ignorance about computers and IBM compatibility. It really is a pain. It isn't a pain once you get out into the community and can show them what it does and so that gives me a lot of satisfaction. In fact, what the computer system can do, how versatile it is.

JACOBSEN: You're talking about this Amiga system?

TAYLOR: Yeah, and…and it's just amazing because you look at the quality of In Focus in the fact that it can be done in-house. We paid, the first two issues, we were paying someone to typeset that thing, and it cost about two thousand dollars. So, that's two thousand dollars we can spend on something else. You still have your staff time and the time that goes into it, but it is something as the museum staff grows and you get more people trained will be something that can continue to be done in-house. I've been asked to help finish it this year, and I'm going to get them set up this year. Those are the kinds of things. I always like things that can do more than what's obvious. I always like to try different applications. Those are the kinds of things that I get most satisfaction out of computers is that you'll figure that one thing is all you're ever going to do on it, and then there's five hundred other things you can do, and you just don't have enough time. I'm working on several projects now involving taking what we developed as a museum and going further. In other words, higher quality resolution. More flexibility, more things that you can do with the images and that sort of thing. That is what I'm really excited about is the potential for that. Also I was a guest speaker at the Society of California Archivists last week. They asked…in fact they had asked me to come sometime ago to discuss the digitizing of photographs, and most of them are used to IBM systems and they're very expensive, so it was very interesting to them to find out that they could do a lot off the shelf is what I call it. I see that there is a lot of potential for that sort of thing where people can find the application. What I would like to do is let them know all the options. At Disneyland they called them imagineers. You know and…

JACOBSEN: Other places they call them futurists.

TAYLOR: It's to take something that already exists and try everything that you can to do with it and then look around and say, "Okay, this would help you here, and this would you there, and this would help you here," because sometimes it takes a long time before the technology trickles to whatever your application is. I've found a lot of satisfaction in that because I see there's a lot of potential for that in other aspects of museum use. They always say a picture's worth a thousand pictures, well, it's worth than a thousand words. One of the things I want to develop is, is so that people understand how much more efficient a computer accessioning system would be if you have the image of the object along with the verbal description `cause I'll tell ya, you know, when you go to look for something, was it blue or was it green? [laughing]

JACOBSEN: Somebody could see it as green and somebody else...

TAYLOR: Oh yeah.

JACOBSEN: So if you have it…

TAYLOR: If you have the image there, and you can make a printout and take that image with you to look for the item, it just makes things easier, and imagine how that would be in a museum the size say the state museum which is ten times bigger in terms of the material that they have to track. Or you go even bigger than that, and you go to one of the major museums like Oakland's and from there to the Smithsonian. It's just amazing. You see the problem that you have in a small museum. Multiply that times a thousand, and the large museums have the same problems. Somebody forgets to write down when they move something, and then they have to go find it. That sort of thing. So those are what we refer to as accessioning problems, but it is exciting what you can do with computers.

JACOBSEN: And what they can be used for in the museum.

TAYLOR: Oh, yeah. Museums, colleges. This is the big deal, and, of course, the archivists are frightened. This is one of the things that they expressed to me is particularly in legal records now are going strictly to computer format and very often there's no hard copy. So they have a lot of concerns about longevity of media. There's a lot of really technical issues that are being addressed and that's why that's such an exciting field, I think, more than anything else. Also, the fact that the Amega system as a core can be set up to do video titling and editing and be the core of a multi-media system that. IBMs and Macs can talk multi-media, but they're just talking. Amigas do it already, so that's something we're going to be doing and exploring is that as an educational tool both for the museum community and also for the business community.

JACOBSEN: Okay, now um…


[End of the Sharon Taylor interview. We now switch to Jacobsen talking to Bob Erickson]


JACOBSEN: Details onto that.

ERICKSON: That’s a pretty complex issue.

JACOBSEN: Well and, and might raise hackles before you turn around you know.


JACOBSEN: I think it is a very interesting that should be explored.

ERICKSON: Well it is being explored and we will be addressing it.

JACOBSEN: No that, I mean it should be explored by somebody like Kirk.


JACOBSEN: In a…In an article when the time comes before the uh…city council.

ERICKSON: Yeah, yeah, it uh…we…before we could do anything with it, we needed a day…we needed a couple of years operating…


ERICKSON: To, to determine what our actual costs were.


ERICKSON: And uh, uh, uh the flexibility the enterprise has give us as far as general government goes is it, in administering those we probably have a larger and more professional staff than Kirk’s office. Uh…city managers salary is, is uh…I’m not sure a city this size…would even have a city manager without the enterprise and uh, uh so he gets some benefits, some staffing benefits there. Not that they subsidized it but you have a bigger organization so you’re able to have probably a larger, more professional staff.

JACOBSEN: Uh-huh. Thanks for the working of the city.

ERICKSON: See our…yeah it helps…it helps…uh…

JACOBSEN: You don’t get that much in taxes do ya?

ERICKSON: Uh, basically from the enterprises we don’t get anything.

JACOBSEN: No but I mean from the county.


JACOBSEN: The tax rate.

ERICKSON: No, no, no. The uh…in 1980 the city’s, the legislature which really controls our revenue.


ERICKSON: The legislature did what they called the tax shift and that was designed because of the tax revolts in California and other states. And moved us away from a property tax base and to a sales tax base. Um…it really hurt Churchill County in a couple of ways. One your income, of course, is much less predictable and the property tax base income, base income is very predictable. Basically you know what you’re going to get every year. The other thing is, is that um certain counties and cities got hurt really badly by it and Churchill is one of them, not as bad as Elko and…

JACOBSEN: Something because of the way we were formulating our tax wasn’t it?

ERICKSON: Partially that and partially because we lose so much retail sales to Reno.

JACOBSEN: To Reno, yeah. Absolutely yes, especially school money there.

ERICKSON: Yeah and well it’s all the same it uh…uh…the uh…


ERICKSON: You know the formula. They’ve got the big pile, the school gets 70% and the county gets 20.

JACOBSEN: Yeah but we’d have for schools if somebody…

ERICKSON: More people start looking.

JACOBSEN: Stop taking

ERICKSON: And the same way, we’d have more for city government.


ERICKSON: Um…that, that difference has grown, in the general fund has grown to about 900,000 dollars a year. If we went back in 1980 and recalculated what our income would be if we were still on the property tax base…as opposed to being on a sales tax base…


ERICKSON: We would have about $900,000 more each year and when you take that cumulative over a ten year period. Of course it’s growing, it started out about $300,000.

JACOBSEN: Alright, so go to 6.

ERICKSON: Yeah. It’s, it’s really tough.

JACOBSEN: That’d be $6 million.

ERICKSON: It’s, it’s really…it’s really tough uh to deliver the same level of services.

JACOBSEN: I know. Personally I think we get good services for our money.


JACOBSEN: I…um…uh…compared to what I know about tax structures in other places. Uh, like children pay to park on their own street.

ERICKSON: Mm-hm. Yeah, yeah. In Nevada, we have, generally we have very good local, county and city governments in Nevada. Very conservative. Part of the problem with uh…the lose of control of revenues when these tax caps came from, from some excesses…uh…some larger metropolitan governments in Nevada, that’s kind of why some of this legislation came down the pipe. Instead of addressing excesses individually, they addressed it as a whole, came down on everybody. Um…

JACOBSEN: Are we still fiscally sound?

ERICKSON: The city?


ERICKSON: Oh, yes absolutely. Uh…we have a hard time…uh…balancing budgets and of course we have to say no to a lot of things. We have to um…uh…we have to make sure we have very good utilization of our people…uh…very good utilization of our equipment and make sure every dollar is accounted for. And the city doesn’t have a lot of things I’d like to see. I’d like to see more parks, liked to see more money devoted to recreation. I’d like to see uh…those services that we just can’t afford.

JACOBSEN: Well, I don’t think you’re not hard enough on the developers. That’s my own personal opinion.

ERICKSON: We’re getting harder.

JACOBSEN: Good. I’ve done…

ERICKSON: We’ve gotten a lot harder since…in the last 4 or 5 years.

JACOBSEN: Well, uh…I don’t know. I sit around and listen to them try to push them around and I think sometimes they do.

ERICKSON: Well that’s the nature of the beast in the developer. They always try and push you around. Some of the things we’ve done though since…in the last 4 years are um…I think your right about um pioneer. Well I won’t say a pioneer because kind of everyone kind of caught on this track thinking about the same time but we were one of the first ones to do it. Is that uh…we felt the new growth and new development of the city should pay for itself and the existing citizens shouldn’t have to subsidize that. Now the area where we first started in on that was the sewer and water. And uh…in uh…August of 1987…uh…we raised the sewer hook up fees from $700 to $2,000 and we raised the water hookup fees from $396 to $650…um the electrical uh, hook ups uh…they have to pay for their total impact on the system. Due to um…uh…the wide variety of demand in the electrical area…


ERICKSON: You can’t have a specific fee like you can on sewer and that sort of thing because somebody may push you into have a new substation, so…

JACOBSEN: Yeah, uh-huh.

ERICKSON: So that kind of…that fee is uh…uh…and that impact is assessed individually. But uh with a $700 fee what would happen would be…that doesn’t come anywhere close to buying a replacement sewage unit or buying into the system. So eventually your existing users are going to subsidize that. That was, that was the philosophy we came up with was that those fees should buy a replacement unit for the unit that they’re using, so the existing users don’t have to pay a monthly charge to uh…uh…to um…

JACOBSEN: To subsidized development.

ERICKSON: Subsidized development.


ERICKSON: Now, the um, the difficulty is there is…if you need to expand your system and go out and borrow money, the lenders will not base your repay pay…repayment on hook up fees. They want to see that monthly user fee, advertised alone. So that’s why the city of Fallon is in a position now and has been for a number of years…we don’t expand things unless we can pay for it. We basically have…

JACOBSEN: Fully funded.

ERICKSON: We have no debt and uh…we operate…

JACOBSEN: God, you must be one of the few places in the world that has no debt.

ERICKSON: We probably are.

JACOBSEN: Including personal people, I mean individuals.

ERICKSON: I mean we have minor debt. I mean we’ve got a police car financed and we’ve got a lawnmower financed.

JACOBSEN: Is this, is this considered fiscally intelligent though?


JACOBSEN: I’m not talking…

ERICKSON: Fiscally intelligent?

JACOBSEN: Not talking as a Republican or a Democrat.

ERICKSON: Or a Democrat. It I think it, I think it is in these times. Now I’m not saying we would never have any debt. In fact in this current upcoming budget, I’m composing as I have proposed that we uh…build a new animal shelter for dogs and cats. And we’re going into debt with that.

JACOBSEN: Yeah, but the county should get involved in that too.

ERICKSON: Well we’re going tap them.

JACOBSEN: Definitely should get um…

ERICKSON: But uh…we um…we’re going to go into debt for that because we can build that right now cheaper than we will ever be able to build.


ERICKSON: Uh…we’re talking about something that we can uh…

JACOBSEN: Is that the program that they had discussed at the city council meeting about a month and a half ago.

ERICKSON: Right, uh-huh. Yeah, putting it into…

JACOBSEN: And your going to do the whole thing then?

ERICKSON: Right, we’re going to do the whole thing.

JACOBSEN: And the sewer plant?

ERICKSON: Uh, yeah. Tentatively it’s scheduled for the sewer plant.

JACOBSEN: Yeah. And do the whole thing, huh?

ERICKSON: Right, absolutely.

JACOBSEN: Good, I’m glad to hear you’re going to do the whole thing. Because I think you would have been out…you would have been out of space before you had it finished.

ERICKSON: Uh-huh. I think so too and I…and you know um…a lot of times cutting corners, not doing things right. You, you’re uh…

JACOBSEN: Uh-huh. The law enforcement buildings a perfect example.

ERICKSON: Pennywise…you know you get to redo it over again before it’s useful life is up.


ERICKSON: Or…or like, uh, a facility like this. If you do it right, you have minimal maintenance. You do it wrong and you can have somebody out there all the time working to try and clean it up and repair things and so…I’m a believer in doing things right. It’s uh…like my philosophy with the police cars and as far as I know some people think that um…uh…before we had been buying used Highway Patrol cars with about 70,000 miles on them and using them as city police cars. Well the initial cost was around $500, $600 a piece then we put about $1,500 into them. Uh…but we found out the maintenance on them was just horrendous and so we went with a program where we buy two cars a year and every four year we replace our…replace our fleet.


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Churchill County Museum Association, “Sharon Taylor Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed August 17, 2022,