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Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project (2013–2019)

Founded by Gordon Chang (History) and Shelley Fisher Fishkin (American Studies), the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project  was organized in advance of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Our goal was to increase the historical visibility of Chinese laborers who constructed the vast transportation networks that transformed the North American west during the latter half of the 19th century.

As Director of Archaeology, I developed and coordinated a network of over 120 archaeologists to generate one of the first “big data” research projects in historical archaeology. By integrating research findings from field studies of hundreds of railroad work camps, this project developed a holistic understanding of the material conditions of Chinese railroad workers’ lives and their diverse experiences as they moved through the varied cultural and physical landscapes of the North American west.

Among many other accomplishments, the Archaeology Network produced a thematic issue of the journal, Historical Archaeology, contributed to an interdisciplinary digital repository, and generated a lavishly illustrated interpretive book, Finding Hidden Voices of the Chinese Railroad Workers.

Presidio of San Francisco (1993–2008 and 2014–2015)

My early-career research at the Presidio of San Francisco (San Francisco, California) sought to investigate the impact of Spanish colonization on Native Californians and to reconstruct the daily lives and material practices of the soldier-settlers who founded and operated Spain’s northernmost military outpost. Much of this research is described in the book, Archaeology of Ethnogenesis as well as in several related publications.

These investigations were carried out as a series of distinct projects, each involving different partnerships between my affiliated organization at the time and the then-current managing agency of the park: (1) archaeological monitoring, 1993–1996 (Woodward Clyde Consultants/Army Corps of Engineers); (2) test excavations and remote sensing in the main Spanish-colonial quadrangle, 1993–1996 (Woodward Clyde Consultants/Army Corps of Engineers); (3) extramural shovel probe survey, 1997–1998 (University of California Berkeley/National Park Service); (4) Funston Avenue Archaeology Research Project, 1999–2000 (University of California Berkeley/Presidio Trust; (5) Tennessee Hollow Watershed Archaeology Project, 2005–2010 and 2014–2015 (Stanford University/Presidio Trust). Technical reports from all of these projects are on file at the Presidio Trust; reference copies are also available at the Historical Archaeology Lab at Stanford University.