My name is Don Merritt. I am the new museum curator here at Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site. I started back on January 3, 2017 and I am very excited to be working here at the park and to be living in the community of John Day. I moved here from Utah, but lived in the west in six states most of my adult life. I have one brother (Chris) who lives in Salt Lake City and works as the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and my 85 year old grandmother (Luella) who lives with me. Over the last few weeks, I have been familiarizing myself with the collections, archives, and daily workings on the park and museum. In fact, Christy Sweet, the previous curator, took time and brought me up to speed with the status of the collections and her knowledge of Kam Wah Chung for several days in mid January.
I graduated in 2010 from the University of Montana with a Masters Degree in Archaeology. After graduation, I worked for a cultural resource management firm out of Sheridan, Wyoming for several years. I then took a job as the museum curator and State Parks archaeologist at Fremont Indian State Park in Utah State Parks and Recreation in 2014. In spring 2016, I accepted a seasonal position as an archaeological field technician for the BLM out of Marsing, Idaho before accepting the position here at Kam Wah Chung. Prior to going to college, I worked several years after high school doing maintenance for apartment complexes and for a couple years at a resort in Colorado. During college from 2000 through 2010, I received a wildlife degree and worked on numerous archaeological projects.
I had the privilege to work on some very interesting archaeological projects and surveys during the last 10 years. I helped work on listing a segment of the California-Mormon-Pony Express Trail in Utah, one of the most complete and intact segment in the state which included two camping sites previously unknown. I also helped survey and record portions of the Rosebud Battlefield near the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana. My thesis was the archaeology and history of Fort Owen in southwest Montana, which I am currently writing a book about. But most importantly, I helped my brother Chris Merritt on his PhD dissertation on The Chinese of Montana, for which I gained the most knowledge on Chinese artifacts.
During my time at Fremont Indian State Park, I had many job titles. Primarily, I was hired as the museum curator for the 120,000 plus artifacts housed at the museum, most of which came from three years of excavations of a Fremont village site discovered during the construction of I-70 in 1983. I also was the volunteer coordinator, guest services coordinator, interpretive coordinator, projects coordinator, gift shop manager, and Utah State Parks Archaeologist for the 43 state parks. My primary responsibility was not museum coordinator, however; it was gift shop manager for the largest gift shop in Utah State Parks with an annual purchasing budget of $74,000 and $157,000 income. Not bad for a state park that only received 19,000 visitors a year.
These previous work experiences will help guide my vision for Kam Wah Chung. I will make an effort to involve more of the local community in activities here at the museum. I have already been making contact with local and national groups to expand the resources we have here to the national community. I will also be developing in conjunction with the park manager a plan for long term goals focused on more events, more research, more community involvement, and expanded Chinese history and artifact exhibits. If you want to help or are interested in more information, stop by and say hello!
© 2017 Friends of Kam Wah Chung
Chinese Year of the Fire Rooster 4715