LOS ALTOS, CA (April 13, 2021) – As embarks on reimagining its core visitor experience with a new, modern, main exhibition emphasizing place and local history, two visionary couples kicked off the campaign to raise funds for the project in a big way. Nan and Chuck Geschke of Los Altos and Edward and Pamela Taft of Los Altos Hills saw the need to upgrade the permanent exhibition to provide visitors with a fresh, immersive experience utilizing the latest technology, and the couples stepped up to share the lead gift by donating $250,000 each.
Both the Geschkes and the Tafts have been recognized for their support of the local community, they each have been named Los Altos Town Crier’s Los Altans of the Year, and they have a long history with the Museum.
Nan and Chuck Geschke moved to Los Altos nearly 50 years ago, where their three children attended school. Former teachers, the Geschkes pivoted to other careers. Nan went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history and political science, and a master’s in library science. She received the Los Altos Historic Preservation Award in 2019, and produced The Los Altos History Show, a monthly cable-access TV program that she hosted from 1991-2000. Chuck joined forces with John Warnock to found Adobe Systems, named after the creek that flowed past their homes. Generous benefactors, the Geschkes focus their support on education and the disadvantaged, and underwrite the Museum’s annual .
Nan was a key figure in helping to raise funds and to plan and design the Museum building. She chaired the committee for the creation of the 2nd-floor main exhibition and enlisted Chuck to help set up touch-screen displays where visitors could learn about local historical figures. She curated several of its major exhibitions, including and exhibitions centered on and .
“When we debuted the original main exhibition in 2001 we said it would last ten years. Well, it’s been twenty years now,” Nan said. The new core exhibition will use landscapes as an anchor, and high-tech multimedia features to tell the Los Altos story. “The use of interactive technology will also resonate with a younger demographic,” she said, which Ed Taft echoed.
Ed and Pamela Taft both grew up in the Boston area but did not know each other at the time. Ed moved to Los Altos right after college; he was employed at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and then at Adobe Systems. Chuck Geschke was his boss at both companies. Pamela lived in Durham, North Carolina, for many years and was employed at Nortel Networks. Ed and Pamela were married in 2003. They devote much of their time to travel (during non-COVID years) and to supporting local nonprofits in the areas of health care, education, and the environment.
Ed and Pamela cite their love for the Museum as motivation for seeding the campaign to upgrade the permanent exhibition. “History moves on, and the technology and methodology for presenting history in museums has changed a lot,” Ed said. “The new permanent exhibit will be organized in a much different way. Rather than chronological, it’s thematic, based on places the local community will recognize and connect with. It’s a new, modern style of museum design which seems to get more traction with contemporary audiences.”
Ed also pointed to the modern technology that will be used to present the new material. “Because a lot of the presentation will be electronic using video displays and augmented reality, it will be a much more interactive experience and much easier to update, than having to swap out physical objects.”
Ed Taft served on the Museum’s board for seven years, including both as treasurer and as president; he currently chairs the Museum’s Finance Committee and oversees its information technology. He and Nan Geschke participated in the hiring of the current Executive Director, Dr. Elisabeth Ward. “With community support, we and the Geschkes have tremendous confidence that the current staff and board can pull this project off and deliver this important resource,” he said.
Both Nan Geschke and Ed Taft are currently serving on the Permanent Exhibition Capital Campaign, joined by Julie Rose, Jane Reed, Eleanor Watanabe, and Dennis Young. “I have so enjoyed talking to many long-term supporters of the Museum about plans for the new core exhibition,” Nan said, “and I am grateful so many have stepped up to help propel this project forward.”
Exhibition planning and design is underway, with content creation teams working toward a mid-summer 2022 opening. To donate to the Permanent Exhibition Capital Campaign, visit the Museum’s website at .
Visitors may view the Museum’s current exhibition, “,” through July 11, 2021. The Museum will reopen its Upper Gallery and train diorama, and expand open hours to Fridays-Sundays from noon to 4pm, beginning April 16. Admission is free. For information on open hours and COVID-19 protocols, visit .
Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the historic farmhouse, built in 1905. In 2001, the Los Altos History Museum opened its modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s , and exhibits, and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available for during evenings and weekends. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.
The Museum is open Friday through Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. The J. Gilbert Smith House remains temporarily closed. The , outdoor and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours. For more information, visit , email , or phone 650.948.9427 x14.
Los Altos History Museum: Elisabeth I. Ward, 650.948.9427 x10,