John Fremont map, 900-year-old basket part of new exhibits at Gatekeeper’s Museum

The Gatekeeper’s Museum team in the Marion Steinbach Native American Basket Museum, from left, Lizzie Pintar, archeologist; Susan Winter, director; Karlie Watson, grants coordinator/assistant. | Susan Winter

On a gorgeous day in the Sierra tucked amongst the towering pines between Fanny Bridge and Lake Tahoe, Karlie Watson is tidying the front patio entrance to get ready for the Gatekeeper’s Museum’s opening. Now that the snow has melted, this is an exciting time for the team that has spent more than eight months tirelessly renovating and building new exhibits; they are eager to show off their work.

The changes are apparent when you walk in. The gift shop is more open and organized. The Marion Steinbach Native American Basket Museum is brighter, the intricately woven baskets more pronounced on their shelves. The library has been transformed into a Tahoe researcher’s paradise, with Tahoe World newspapers dating back to the 1960s and Volumes I and II of the Tahoe Tattlers published in 1881. There are even shelves of Tahoe City school yearbooks going back to the 1960s.

“We’re all breathing new life in this place and all working together.”     –Susan Winter

The “On The Lake” maritime exhibit about traveling on Tahoe’s steamers is new and an ode to Tahoe City’s iconic restaurants and resorts conjure memories of times at Bacchi’s and the Pfeifer House. In the center, a video reel created by local videographer Patrick Yun plays clips of famous movies that were filmed in Tahoe — last year was the 50th anniversary of “The Godfather II,” which was filmed partly on the West Shore.

The only two displays that haven’t been changed are the wildlife and boat exhibits.

In the hallway connecting the two rooms, a dedicated display about the Washo Tribe, the original settlers of the land, is next to reels of patterned American Indian textiles made in the 1920s.

Upstairs, the “Through Tahoe’s Lens: Early 20th Century Photography” exhibit shows antique sepia-toned photos taken by Anne Brigman, the original photo albums of Arthur Pillsbury (who created the first panorama camera) and collections sourced through Putnam & Valentine.


Read about photographer Anne Brigman at TheTahoeWeekly.com


Across from that is the “Discovering Lake Tahoe Historical Maps 1849-1942”, a new sponsored exhibit that runs through the summer. Fifteen maps of the Tahoe Basin, including an original John C. Fremont 1844 expedition map, hang on walls on both sides, with magnifying glasses so that one can dive in to see how Tahoe has transformed over the last two centuries. 

The Marion Steinbach Native American Basket Museum is completely redone. Gone are the dark walls, individual tags and giant maps. This 2023 iteration puts the spotlight on the baskets and now highlights the women basketmakers, points out the special way that the Washo made their baskets — tightly coiled with unique shapes and designs — and the museum even has a 900-year-old basket in a glass case.

The walls have been repainted, new floors have been put in, the log beams touched up to show off what the museum is all about. Even the staff is new.

Executive Director Susan Winter has been with the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society since last July; she first volunteered before moving into the director’s role. She holds a degree in anthropology from the University of Arizona and earned a master’s in museum studies from California State University, San Francisco. She came to Tahoe to snowboard and fell in love with the area.

“The focus has been on artifacts and membership, our mission and the visitor experience,” Winter says. She works with archeologist Lizzie Pintar to decide whether the museum wants to ascension an item and archivist Nancy Stromswold, who is key to the museum’s operations.

Winter says that “the heavens opened” when grant writer/poet/assistant/University of Nevada, Reno graduate student Watson came. There’s also a new board of directors.

“We’re all breathing new life in this place and all working together,” Winter says.

The Gatekeeper’s Museum is in Tahoe City and is open Wednesdays to Sundays (non-holiday) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free admission will be offered during the Open House on Aug. 2 and the Heritage Trail Tour on Aug. 13. | northtahoemuseums.org


Museum Open House

Aug. 2 | Noon-4 p.m.

Heritage Trail Tour

Aug. 13 | 11 a.m.-4 p.m.