July 18, 2022

USU transcontinental railroad research recognized by US Department of the Interior

Students doing research in the feildMolly Boeka Cannon and Native American Summer Mentorship Program students collect ground-penetrating radar data at Terrace Cemetery.

Rails East to Ogden: Utah’s Transcontinental Railroad Story” earns DOI environmental achievement award for helping to protect cultural resources

By Andrea DeHaan, CHaSS Communications Editor

Rails East to Ogden: Utah’s Transcontinental Railroad Story,” a publication in the Bureau of Land Management’s cultural resources series, has been recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The award-winning publication includes USU Museum of Anthropology and Spatial Data Collection, Analysis, and Visualization Lab’s work to conduct geophysical investigations at sites along the historic rail line.

A team of anthropologists that also included the Utah State Historic Preservation Office, Cannon Heritage Consultants and Aspen Ridge Consultants led a multiyear study to conduct on-the-ground and in-library research to create a comprehensive resource focused on BLM-administered lands. Their efforts to better understand the Utah section of the Transcontinental Railroad were honored with a fiscal year 2021 DOI Environmental Achievement award in the category of cultural resources protection. 

“I am grateful for the Department of Interior’s recognition of our work along Utah’s Transcontinental Railroad. I hold a deep appreciation of this place and a passion for our work to study and tell the story of this period in Utah’s industrial history,” Dr. Molly Boeka Cannon, executive director, USU Museum of Anthropology and Spatial Data Collection, Analysis, and Visualization Lab, said.

She oversaw a project to map data at several locations including the historic townsites of Terrace and Matlin, where students from USU’s Native American Summer Mentorship Program (2016-2019) assisted in gathering information.

Cannon said her team appreciated the chance to interview the decedents of Chinese railroad workers, and they value “the impact of this work to connect those communities to their ancestors through the artifacts left behind.”

Their research received funding from the National Park Service through the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.

The full BLM publication is available for free download: https://issuu.com/utah10/docs/rails_east_to_ogden. 

Cannon’s team also produced a story map summarizing research and management challenges along the Utah TCRR: https://arcg.is/0T9LfC.

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