The Race to
Promontory: Get a Wide-Angle View at UMFA
One hundred and
fifty years ago at Promontory Summit, Utah, the final spike was driven, the
transcontinental railroad was complete, and the nation was transformed.
The Race to Promontory: The
Transcontinental Railroad and the American West, a major traveling exhibition now on
view at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA),
offers an extraordinary account of one of the greatest achievements of the
nineteenth century through powerful images that still resonate a century and a
half after their making.
reunites—for the first time in Utah—the famous Golden (The Last Spike), Nevada
Silver, and Arizona spikes that were present at the “Meeting of the
Rails” on May 10, 1869. All three spikes will be on view at the UMFA through
April and then at the Utah State Capitol May 8–12.
these compelling images and historic artifacts, Utahns can explore some of the
historically overlooked narratives around this important history through free
educational programs with renowned historians, artists, and community members
The Race to
by Joslyn Art Museum and the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, is a cultural
centerpiece of Spike 150, the state’s
year-long celebration of the anniversary. It’s on view through May 26.
connects Utahns with this shared history in ways that only visual art can. The
transcontinental railroad joined East and West, triggering dramatic economic,
technological, and cultural changes across the nation. Fittingly, this
transformative event was captured by the equally groundbreaking medium of
experience rare works from photography’s earliest days by practitioners who
brought a painter’s eye to this historic moment. The more than 150 photographs
and stereographs by Andrew Joseph Russell (1830–1902) and Alfred A. Hart
(1816–1908) are drawn exclusively from the Union Pacific Historic Collection at
the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.
also discover thirty-one works by nineteenth-century Utah photographer Charles
Savage, whose scenes of local landscapes helped boost tourism and settlement.
Savage’s photographs are on loan from J. Willard Marriott Library Special
Collections at the University of Utah.
nineteenth-century photographers focused primarily on the engineering triumphs
of the railroad, the vast resources available for an expanding nation, and the
region’s pictorial beauty. Interpretive materials and an interactive gallery
help visitors think critically about the ways in which these photographers
framed the railroad’s construction for their audiences.
educational programs will examine many narratives only alluded to in the images
on view—including the experiences of Chinese and Irish immigrants who made up
the workforce, members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints who worked alongside
them, and Native Americans, whose lives were forever changed as the railroad
spurred new migration into their ancestral lands.
Join UMFA on Wednesday, March 6 at 7pm for a free lecture, "Promontory Perspectives: A Faculty Conversation":
Perspectives: A Faculty Conversation Wednesday,
March 6 | 7 pm | Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium | FREE
the transcontinental railroad and its completion at Promontory Point are as
dynamic as the moment itself. Join us for an evening of University of Utah
faculty presentations that examine the significance of this historical event
through diverse critical lenses. Featured presenters include Paisley Rekdal,
Utah poet laureate and professor of English; Gregory Smoak, director, American
West Center, and associate professor of history; and Matthew Basso, associate
professor of gender studies and history. Q&A to follow.
for the exhibition was provided by Presenting Sponsor George S. and Dolores
Doré Eccles Foundation, Golden Spike sponsor Zions Bank, Programming and
Lecture Sponsor The Hal R. and Naoma J. Tate Foundation, and by Union Pacific,
the State of Utah, the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts, and Spike 150.
The UMFA is
grateful to the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts
& Parks Program (ZAP) for its year-round support of the Museum. ZAP
funds help make possible the UMFA’s many free programs and twenty-four annual free general admission days.
Photo credits in order:
(American, 19th century), Nevada Silver Spike, 1869, silver, Iris &
B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, Stanford Family
Collections, 1998.117; William T. Garrett Foundry (American, active 19th
century), The Last Spike, 1869, gold, alloyed with copper, Iris & B.
Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, gift of David
Hewes, 1998.115; artist unknown (American, 19th century), Arizona Spike,
1869, silver, steel, and gold, Museum of the City of New York, gift of Mrs.
Arthur Whitney, 1943, 43.44.4
Alfred A. Hart
(American, 1816–1908), Rounding Cape Horn. Road to Iowa Hill from the River,
in the distance, ca. 1866, albumen stereograph, courtesy Union Pacific