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Deceased in May 2014, Kay Atwood was born in Bakersfield, California, and lived there until leaving to attend Mills College in 1960. She held degrees from both Mills College (B.A. in theatre design) and the University of California, Davis (M.A. in theatre) and taught at a community college in California for four years after completing her degree work.
In 1969, Kay moved to Ashland, Oregon, to work with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Soon thereafter, she started to prepare exhibits at the Southern Oregon Historical Society in Jacksonville and, since the mid-1970s, has devoted much of her time to consulting with agencies and municipalities and preparing cultural resource inventories, environmental histories, and National Register nominations. She also has written several books on local and regional history.
During the late 1990s, Kay started research on the surveyors who came to the Oregon Territory in 1851 to work for the General Land Office to conduct that agency's first surveys in the Pacific Northwest. Chaining Oregon--Surveying the Public Lands of the Pacific Northwest, 1851-1855 is one result of that research.