SALT LAKE CITY – The first exhibit to debut in the changing exhibit gallery of the Natural History Museum of Utah at the Rio Tinto Center, the University of Utah, articulates the stories of the people who helped the Museum complete its amazing journey into its new home on the former shoreline of ancient Lake Bonneville. From the Ground Up is an interactive exhibit that goes back to the Museum’s first days in the old George Thomas Building, and it details the behind-the-scene efforts that went into the Museum’s new residence, the Rio Tinto Center.
“The Rio Tinto Center is a wonderful marriage between architectural and exhibit design,” noted Exhibit Designer Tim Lee. “We think this exhibit is a great opportunity for us to not only recap the 25-year trek, but for us to tell the stories of everyone who helped make this place happen.”
Dedication of the 163,000-square-foot Rio Tinto Center was on Nov. 17, 2011, and it opened to the general public on the following day. However, the initial planning of it began in the early 1990’s, and the actual design process began in 2005 when Museum staff, architects and exhibit designers took a trip across the entire state of Utah to absorb its cultural and geological diversity. The trip, in turn, set hundreds of workers in motion from Ennead and GSBS Architects, the Museum, Ralph Applebaum Associates, Big-D Construction and Design Workshop. All of their individual efforts collectively culminated in the new Museum and, ultimately this exhibit, From the Ground Up.
Among the behind-the-scenes photos, scale models, and sketches found throughout the exhibit, From the Ground Up includes several interactive elements that engage the visitors. A timeline affixed to the floor immerses visitors in the exhibit as it guides them through the hall, highlighting major milestones in the process. It adeptly winds past several recycled freestanding walls built out of the same wood pallets used to move the collections to the Rio Tinto Center. The timeline also takes people past: an interactive 2-minute time-lapse movie of the construction process; an interactive where visitors dump water on a piece of pervious concrete to see it in action; taped interviews with several of the people involved in the process; and it has several touch specimens, including copper from Bingham Canyon Mine, authentic blue prints of the Rio Tinto Center, board-form concrete, and several of the design elements seen in the building.
The Natural History Museum of Utah’s From the Ground Up exhibit is presented by Big-D Construction, with additional support from Ennead Architects/GSBS Architects, Staker Parson Companies, A&B Mechanical, and the C. Comstock Clayton Foundation.
The Natural History Museum of Utah, the University of Utah, is one of the leading scientific research and cultural institutions in the Intermountain West. Established in 1963, the Museum cares for over 1.2 million objects and offers innovative exhibitions and educational programs to thousands of residents and visitors each year, including traveling and permanent exhibits, special events and other programs. The Museum also offers a variety of outreach programs to communities and schools throughout Utah, reaching every school district in the state annually. The Museum has an active research program with more than 30 scientists and 10 field expeditions each year.