Utah lawmaker pushes for preservation of artifacts from the Transcontinental Railroad

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker is urging Congress to do more to protect artifacts being looted along the Transcontinental Railroad.

Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Taylorsville, is in Washington D.C., to urge Utah’s congressional delegation to help get a federal repository to take in artifacts from the time period. In an interview with FOX 13, Rep. Kwan, a descendant of Chinese railroad workers, said many pieces from the construction are sitting out in the open and have been taken.

“There’s so much history there. There’s so many stories there,” she said.

It is technically a crime to take those items from federal land, even if they haven’t been catalogued or stored by archaeologists. But she said there is no place to put them.

“It means a great deal so that we don’t lose those. Chinese railroad workers have been ignored for a long time and during a time, they were intentionally ignored,” Rep. Kwan said. “It’s my duty and honor and responsibility as a descendant to make sure my ancestors and those of the other railroad workers are not lost.”

Rep. Kwan has support from northern Utah lawmakers to help preserve the artifacts. Chris Merritt, an archaeologist with the Division of State History, was also supportive. He said during the recent Golden Spike celebrations, Utah’s Division of State History and the Bureau of Land Management showcased historical artifacts from the Transcontinental Railroad.

“Many archaeological sites on public lands in Utah are in threat of looting and vandalism, but archaeologists and the descendant community have no tools to protect what remains of their heritage in Utah’s museums,” he said in an email.

“Expanding Golden Spike National Historical Park to include a repository for at least historic archaeology materials from railroad sites is in keeping with Congressman Bishop’s position to raise awareness of this National Park Service unit, while also meeting the needs of the Chinese descendant community to protect and steward their heritage from our public lands. The State is also looking to solve the broader problem by including storage space in the proposed Museum on Capitol Hill.”

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