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A sneak peek inside Utah's new natural history museum

By John Hollenhorst | Posted - Nov. 14, 2011 at 8:47 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — If you want to see something monstrous, informative, or beautiful, there's a new game in town. The newly renamed Natural History Museum of Utah will open Friday, but KSL News got a sneak peek inside.

For starters, the museum boasts a massive dinosaur exhibit that is almost completely new. It featuring Utah's residents from 76 million years ago, most discovered recently in southern Utah.

"Nearly every dinosaur we found down there is a new species and is only found in Utah, and is only found here at the Natural History Museum of Utah," said Randy Irmis, the museum's curator of paleontology.

But that's just a slice of what's here. Exhibits trace Utah's natural history from distant past to foreseeable future. Most of it, you never saw in the old museum.


Nearly every dinosaur we found (in southern Utah) is a new species and is only found in Utah, and is only found here at the Natural History Museum of Utah.

–Randy Irmis, museum curator of paleontology


"This is a much bigger space, and it was designed to be a museum," explained Sarah George, the museum's executive director.

It's a new approach in a building designed with an architect's eye, embedded in the foothills above the University of Utah.

"It's a sensitive landscape," architect Todd Schliemann said. "We had to be very careful that the building not just be this great battleship on the side of this hill."

It's designed as a series of terraces and switchbacks, outside and in. Visitors gently ascend ramps and walkways, crossing the hill in switchbacks like they would outside.

"We don't walk strait up hills, we traverse them," Schliemann said, "and it also lets you slow down and appreciate what you can see."

More Information:

Opening Day: Friday, Nov. 18 (tickets sold out)

For future visits:
  • The museum will open every day at 10 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. (excluding Thanksgiving Day and Christmas)
  • The museum will stay open until 9 p.m. every Wednesday.
Pricing:
  • Adults — $9
  • Senior citizens & teens — $7
  • Children (ages 3-12) — $6

"As you walk through the museum as a family, there are things to do for people of all ages, together," George said.

There's modern multi-media, and new approaches to old-style exhibits. "We really wanted to give people the experience of what it's like to see these fossils in the ground, what they look like when they're first found," Irmis explained.

You can peek through a window at the vast archive of stuff not on display, as well. "We have a huge collection. It's 1.2 million objects," George said.

Or you can just admire a unique building, clad in Kennecott Copper, changing colors, blending into the hillside as it ages.

"You know, this building, I couldn't put this building in another place. It belongs here," Schliemann said.

Email: hollenhorst@ksl.com

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John Hollenhorst

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