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New & Redesigned Exhibits Celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad

transonctinental railroad

The California State Railroad Museum & Foundation will present a variety of new and/or redesigned exhibits timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Some of the interpretive and compelling exhibits can be viewed for a limited time while others will be on permanent display inside the Museum.

  • Pop-Up Exhibit: “Ten Thousand Miles of Nostalgia” Watercolor Painting – An eye-catching watercolor painting titled “Ten Thousand Miles of Nostalgia” created by renowned Chinese artist Zhao Zhunwang will be on special display for a limited time for two weeks starting on May 8, in the Museum’s Front Entry Gallery (near the Museum Store). The impressive watercolor painting – which was designed to commemorate the hard work and monumental contribution of Chinese railroad workers – measures approximately 60’ in length by 4.6’ in width. Zhao traveled to numerous sites along the original Central Pacific route in California and sketched what he saw along his journey. His travels and visits to art museums all over the U.S. helped to inspire Zhao’s unique artistic style, which blends Western art with China’s Eastern ink-painting style.
  • “Chinese Workers’ Experience” Exhibit – In April, the Museum debuted an enhanced “Chinese Workers’ Experience” exhibit in the first-floor Transcontinental Gallery that showcases and shares stories of the Chinese railroad workers who were essential in the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. To help personalize and bring their experiences to life, the Museum convened members of a Chinese Community Advisory Committee to obtain personal histories and stories from descendants of Chinese railroad workers. Many of their shared recollections – that have been passed down for generations – were incorporated into the exhibit. Highlighted by four interpretive panels, two video monitors, four 3-D shadow boxes and an interactive component, the emotionally-powerful exhibit allows visitors to immerse themselves in the toil and experiences of Chinese railroad workers who endured and persevered through severe weather and treacherous terrain.
  • Judah Map Exhibit – Also in April, the Museum debuted a special exhibit that showcases the impressive 66’ Judah Map – on loan from the California State Archives – that has never before been on public display in its entirety. Theodore Judah was the first engineer to systematically explore the western Sierra Nevada mountains and map the route of the Central Pacific Railroad. The map will remain on public display through May 31.
  • Gold Spike Exhibit Redesign – Already home to both the priceless “lost” Gold Spike and the famous “Last Spike” painting by Thomas Hill, the Museum recently debuted yet another exciting acquisition as part of the Gold Spike Exhibit redesign – an engraved gold oval locket made from the excess gold sprue left over after the casting of the gold spikes. The gold locket includes historic engravings, imagery and elements significant to the Transcontinental Railroad, including a depiction of the gold spike being driven between the two meeting tracks. A specially-created display case – made to rotate and magnify the locket – was designed for this newly acquired treasure that was secured by the Sacramento Pioneer Association and the California State Railroad Museum Foundation. The prized locket is now part of the Museum’s collection and is on permanent display. Additionally, the redesigned area now includes an interpretive Gold Spike monitor surrounded by a custom-painted canvas frame – created by local artist Jeremy Stanger – that highlights (in gold leaf) what is engraved on the back of the locket.

Another enhanced and visually-exciting element to the redesigned Gold Spike exhibit is a new projection system that includes historic photos that are positioned next to the “Last Spike” painting. Museum guests can now compare, contrast and gain a better understanding of art, memory, and the history of this moment in time. This exhibit also includes a 3-D interactive and a touch-enabled component for the visually impaired with the audio available in both English and Spanish. All of the new and/or enhanced elements of the redesigned Gold Spike exhibit area will remain on permanent display inside the Museum.

For more details and updated information about events, activities and exhibits presented by the California State Railroad Museum & Foundation, please visit Railroad150.org; for more information about the Museum or Foundation visit CaliforniaRailroad.museum; and for more information about Waterfront Days happening over Memorial Day Weekend, visit OldSacramento.com.

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About the author

Traci Rockefeller Cusack

Traci Rockefeller Cusack

Traci Rockefeller Cusack has 25+ years of media and public relations experience.  Her work experience includes News10 (ABC) as Promotion Manager from 1989-1998 (where she developed and launched “Coats for Kids’ Sake,” a winter coat drive that lasted 20+ years plus coordinated Oprah Winfrey’s first ever visit to Sacramento) and Fleishman-Hillard as Vice President from 1998-2005 (where she led the wildly successful statewide “California Grown” program and also produced the five-minute video that played on the Jumbotron on Opening Day at Pac Bell Park). In 2007, she launched T-Rock Communications and currently handles a wide range of marketing activities for a number of top-notch organizations.

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