The Sioux City Railroad Museum in Sioux City, Iowa. Photo: Elizabeth Dooley.

Uncovering Untold Narratives with the Sioux City Railroad Museum

Iowa Culture
Iowa History

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The value of an object is often set by price, disregarding the personal narrative objects hold.

When gathering historical information about the Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District in Sioux City, Iowa, the notion of monetary value is challenged given the history preserved is priceless.

The Sioux City Railroad Museum, encompassed by the Milwaukee Railroad Shops District, prides itself on telling the authentic story of the American railroad worker through once common objects, now artifacts, discovered on site.

“Many of the artifacts we have on display are connected to railroad employees and their families… we use the artifacts as our connections with future generations to begin telling that story,” historian and author Larry Obermeyer said.

The 2023 Preserve Iowa Summit will be held June 1–3 in Sioux City, Iowa. Photo: Elizabeth Dooley.

With the University of Iowa Office of the State Archeologist, the Sioux City Railroad Museum offers Preserve Iowa Summit (set for June 1–3 at the Warrior Hotel in Sioux City, Iowa) participants a look into the discovery of these priceless artifacts and associated narratives. The pre-summit Archaeology Field Day event on May 31 seeks to highlight the importance of site-specific preservation by providing an immersive experience in the discovery of artifacts that give essential visuals to the narrative of the past.

“The artifacts and relics we uncover during the archaeological investigations tell the story when the people can’t anymore,” Obermeyer said. “The recovered artifacts are heirlooms with a story that the land has curated for us and now wants us to discover and share.”

Summit participants will share in the investigations of the Milwaukee Railroad Shops and have the opportunity to recover and catalog artifacts themselves, contributing to the wealth of the museum collection that exceeds more than 5,000 objects.

“This field day provides participants the opportunity to experience a day of tasks and techniques that play a critical role in the work life of an archaeologist,” Obermeyer said.

More than an experience, participants will enrich the accessible narrative of a too-often forgotten American story and build up the collective understanding of railroad workers’ societal impact.

“Our intent is to use our archaeological work to preserve and share the unique culture and history of railroad workers who have often been understudied, trivialized, and left to tales.” Obermeyer said.

– Meghan Anderson, State Historical Society of Iowa

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Iowa Culture
Iowa History

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs empowers Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to resources. iowaculture.gov