A Unique View of Utah’s History

Story by: L. Wylie Shepard

After six years in the making, the Natural History Museum of Utah has opened the Rio Tinto Center, an entirely new building that features ten permanent galleries dedicated to Utah’s history. On opening day, Nov. 18, 2011, admission was free for all museum visitors, allowing anyone to experience the new exhibitions.

Becky Menlove, the exhibit director for the Natural History Museum of Utah, explained that their goal was to “create very interdisciplinary exhibits.”

The creators did not want each exhibit to focus solely on one part of nature, but instead to combine multiple “forces” of nature such as rocks, plants, paleontology and hydrology in order to promote multifaceted learning within each exhibit.

The three-story center is focused around its ten galleries: Utah Sky and View Terrace, Native Voices, Life, Land, First Peoples, Lake Past Worlds, Utah Futures, Minerals and Our Backyard, which focus on “Utah’s history, artifacts and objects from every county in the state,” according to a museum press release.

The Rio Tinto Center utilized recycled resources for more than 25 percent of its overall structure and included “green” features such as radiant heating and cooling.  The Museum was also designed with room to expand to over the next 50 years.

Todd Schliemann, the design architect for the building, said he hoped to “symbolize the beauty and magnitude of the state’s unique landscapes.”

Schliemann said he was excited about the space he has created, stating that the “space is beginning to lift you up and getting you ready to learn, to receive information.”

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and features four days in 2012 with free admission: Jan. 9, April 9, July 9 and Sept. 22.