Mission & Values

Mission: The Natural History Museum of Utah illuminates the natural world and the place of humans within it.  


The Natural History Museum of Utah opened its doors to the public in the George Thomas Building in 1969. Since then, collections have been transferred from the University's academic departments and grown through research, acquisition, and contributions to number more than 1.5 million objects. The Museum has solidified its position as the State museum of natural history and has developed strong programs of exhibits and education, both on-site and statewide. In November 2011, we opened our new facility, the Rio Tinto Center, with entirely new exhibit galleries, engaging programs for the public and state-of-the-art collections care and research facilities. At this milestone in the Museum's rich history, we acknowledge that we are a work-in-progress.


We strive to:

  • Foster an understanding of science as a journey of discovery and wonder.
  • Promote the preservation of biological and cultural diversity.
  • Preserve collections in trust for future generations.
  • Encourage new perspectives on and inspire passion for the natural world.
  • Celebrate Utah's native peoples and cultures.
  • Showcase Utah's unique and extraordinary environments.
  • Create knowledge through innovative research.
  • Demonstrate the myriad links connecting the past, present and future.
  • Transcend scientific disciplines to reveal the networks inherent in nature.
  • Serve as center for science literacy, acting as a bridge between the scientific community and the public.
  • Empower people to make thoughtful decisions about the future.

Statement of Ethics

It is recognized that we benefit from a high degree of public trust. To maintain that confidence, we must act with integrity, prudence, intellectual honesty, foresight and appropriate transparency. It is in our Statement of Ethics we intend to communicate a better understanding of our mission and dictate basic ethical responsibilities for NHMU staff, volunteers and other partners. 

NHMU & Evolution

NHMU is an institution of science. As such, we accept the theory of evolution, which is the unifying concept of all biological sciences. While there remains ongoing and lively debate about the processes of evolutionary change—that is, how evolution occurs—the overwhelming majority of biologists fully endorse the idea that all organisms on earth share a common ancestry and that life's unfolding has encompassed billions of years of time. Like gravity, evolution is one of the cornerstones of modern science, and it represents one of the key themes of our institutional mission. 

Sustainability - Leading by Example

"Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
                                                                                                                        (Bruntland Commission, United Nations, 1987)

The Natural History Museum of Utah scientists study the past to understand pattern and process, with the belief that this knowledge provides a basis for people to make informed decisions that affect the future. The philosophy of sustainability is a fundamental framework for evaluating such choices. NHMU provides opportunities for students and visitors to better understand their interactions with the natural world and provide a framework for individual and community decision-making. We aspire to lead by example—demonstrating the viability of sustainable choices in our new building and in our operations. 

Sustainability is a core value here at NHMU, as seen through our new building and is an integral aspect of our mission.

Learn more about our new building, the Rio Tinto Center and it's LEED certification.

Statement on Divesting from Fossil Fuels

Statement of Dr. Sarah George, Director of the Natural History Museum of Utah:
The Natural History Museum of Utah is the state museum of natural history; the University of Utah is our parent organization. The University has management responsibility for and sole authority over our investment portfolio, which is part of the University’s portfolio. The University of Utah’s Academic Senate has created two committees to address the very important and complex issue of portfolio divestment from fossil fuels, and related questions. We deeply respect the thoughtful process that has been established by the Senate and fully support the hard work of these committees.
Statement of Amy Wildermuth, Chief Sustainability Officer for the University of Utah on Responsible Investment of the University’s Endowment:
On behalf of the university, we appreciate those who have expressed a keen interest in responsible investment. This topic raises important questions and we appreciate the opportunity to participate in the dialogue.
The University of Utah’s Academic Senate, the governing body for the university, has been working on the issue of responsible investment for several years. Like other institutions, we have discovered that it is a complicated matter. Using the expertise of our terrific faculty, the Senate has asked two committees to work together to examine how endowment investment decisions might be made consistent with the University’s and Museum’s longstanding and continuing commitment to sustainability. We expect the committees to make a series of recommendations by the end of this academic year that will then move forward to the Academic Senate for further action.
For more information on the recommendations that inspired the Academic Senate to create the current committees exploring responsible investment, please see the Senate's page from the meeting of May 4, 2015

Strategic Goals 

We will be a regional research center.  Our research and scholarship contributions will expand:
  • more faculty curators including establishing endowed chairs; 
  • more grants and publications,
  • growth of field research, including establishment of a fieldwork endowment and the growth of our Range Creek Research Station,
  • with a particular focus on collaborative and interdisciplinary science, and
  • research results will be communicated to the broadest possible public.
We will be a top regional destination based on the quality of the visitor experience:
  • continue to invest in the media experience for visitors, both in-gallery and online,
  • regularly assess the quality of interpretation, updating content, and keep abreast of new technological developments,
  • create public interest in science and communicate its excitement and pertinence through temporary exhibits, in our permanent galleries and through public and school programs, and
  • offer an authentic Utah experience with a focus on human interaction in the galleries. 
We will be the state museum of natural history:
  • by providing high quality science education to and promoting STEM careers in public schools statewide, 
  • by providing virtual and actual outreach and forming and maintaining robust partnerships with Utah communities statewide, 
  • by being a center for the interpretation of Native cultures as well a destination for Native peoples, and
  • the diversity of our audience and in our staff and volunteers will reflect the diversity of Utah.
We will be a center for university student engagement:
  • expand student support including graduate student assistantships, undergraduate scholarships, internships, 
  • explore unique degree and/or certificate programs including disciplinary research, object conservation and/or master naturalist, and
  • expand job opportunities. 
We will be a truly sustainable institution:
  • our choices will be green,
  • by investing in the development of our staff, board, and volunteers 
  • by seeking strategic partnerships with agencies, businesses, cultural and educational organizations
  • by exceeding our goals for earned income and annual giving as laid out in the business plan and building a reserve that will provide a cushion during economic downturns as well as the ability to proactively invest in innovation, 
  • by exceeding our attendance goals, seeking measurable feedback on the quality of the visitor experience, and using the results for improvement, and
  • we will measure, document, and communicate the economic impact of the Museum, as well as the return on the community's investment in the Rio Tinto Center.