MT. PLEASANT— A new exhibit is on display at the Mt. Pleasant City Hall Art Gallery this month to celebrate one of America’s greatest accomplishments in the state of Utah.
The exhibit, entitled “A World Transformed: the Transcontinental Railroad and Utah,” celebrates the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, which happened in Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869, making the exhibit a few years older than the actual anniversary but special, nonetheless.
Todd Welch, associate dean for special collections, said the railroad’s impact on Utah’s history is invaluable. “The railroad linked the territory to the rest of the coun- try and served as the catalyst for economic and cultural change,” Welch said.
May 10, 2019, marked the 150 years since the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the United States at Promontory Summit. The railroad was completed at a ceremony on May 10, 1869, and joined by a ceremonial golden spike at Promontory, Utah just 120 miles from Park City, with President Ulysses S. Grant in attendance to drive the spike in.
Utah State University Libraries and the Utah State Division of History partnered to create the exhibition series. The series serves as a broad overview of the creation, completion, and aftermath of the rail, and it highlights Utahns’ contributions through investment, surveying, and labor.
“We are fortunate to host quality shows from Utah Arts & Museums. The Traveling Exhibit Program promotes creativity and provides education of diverse art forms and cultures,” Lisa Potter said. Potter serves as a member of the North Sanpete Arts Advisory Board.
The exhibit takes a well-informed scholastic approach to the impact of the railroad on Utah, how it brought diversity to the state and strongly connected the once-isolated territory to the country. Early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, barely a generation removed from fleeing the U.S, resisted the change, as well as Native American tribes resisting the push into indigenous territory.
Photographers traveled along the entire east and west routes documenting every step of the process. Andrew J. Russell, an official Union Pacific photographer, captured the most iconic photo entitled “The Champagne Photo.”
In addition to photographs, the exhibit includes storyboards, watercolor sketches and display cases containing a piece of rail, a stake, chain links, a pin coupler and even a period beer bottle.
The large version of the exhibit will highlight personal accounts by Irish and Chinese laborers using artifacts from the USU Museum of Anthropology and Golden Spike National Historic Park. All exhibit formats draw upon the many rich historical resources held by different institutions from across the nation including photographs, maps, art, and lithographs.