Story by Chris Washington
After several years of construction and planning, the Natural History Museum of Utah’s (NHMU) new facility is finally open to the public.
Construction on the Rio Tinto Center, as it’s called, dates back to around 2005 and didn’t officially open until Saturday.
Many of the people involved have high hopes for the new museum.
“I think we put together a great museum in a great location,” said Patti Carpenter, director of public relations for the museum. To celebrate its grand opening, admission was free for the entire first day.
NHMU, which is located at the University of Utah, is a major research institution that focuses primarily on both the natural and cultural history of the Great Basin Region.
A unique aspect of the museum is its ability to display multiple forms of information in one given area.
“One of our goals was for families to be able to experience the museum together and so in each area you’ll find something to look at, something to listen to, something to smell we have smells, and something to do,” said Randy Irmis, the curator of paleontology for the museum.
The new Rio Tinto Center is 163,000 square feet, with a staggering 51,000 feet as public gallery space. Todd Schliemann, the design architect for the building said that his goal was to “symbolize the beauty and magnitude of the state’s unique landscapes.”
Not only is the new facility state of the art, it is also highly energy-efficient with radiant cooling and heating systems, as well as water-efficient landscaping and plans for a solar-paneled roof that could power more than 25 percent of the museum. The facility also used recycled materials for more than 25 percent of the structural and architectural resources. If that wasn’t enough, over 75 percent of the museum’s construction waste was recycled.