Our New Home

The Natural History Museum of Utah is pleased to be open in our new home, the Rio Tinto Center, to serve as the state's new natural history museum building.  Located in the foothills above Salt Lake City, the building is an accomplishment of the community and will serve to further the Museum's mission; to illuminate the natural world and humans place within it. 

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The Rio Tinto Center

Nestled into the foothills of the Wasatch Mountain Range, the Rio Tinto Center rests on a series of terraces that follow the contours of the hillside, blending into the environment.  The building is located along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, a popular location for hiking and mountain biking, which serves as the Museum's "main street". 

The building is immediately recognizable due to the 42,000 square feet of standing seam copper that wraps the exterior of the building.  The copper, mined from Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine located across the Salt Lake Valley from the new Museum site, is installed in horizontal bands of various heights to represent the layered rock formations seen throughout Utah.

Photos of the Rio Tinto Center are available on the Museum's Facebook page. These should be viewable whether or not you use Facebook. 

A Gathering Place

Visitors enter the Level 1 Foyer to purchase admission and register for events.  From there, they climb the main staircase, or take an elevator, to emerge in the main lobby area, which we call the Canyon.  Three-stories high and featuring a Collections Wall displaying over 500 objects from the Museum's collection, the Canyon is our central public and gathering space.  

From the Canyon, visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the Salt Lake Valley, begin to explore the Museum's Trailhead to Utah system, enter the exhibit galleries, or enjoy the Museum Store and Cafe.  

Beyond the public areas of the Rio Tinto Center, the building provides advanced research and collection facilities for Museum scientists who oversee the care and curation of more than 1.5 million objects in the Museum's collection.  The collections and research areas are the core of the institution and feature sophisticated climate control and other means of protecting the collection, and a venue for undergraduate and graduate training at the University of Utah.  

Case Study for Sustainable Development

The building and surrounding grounds have been designed and built according to the standards for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification.  From the pervious pavement of the parking lot to solar photovoltaic panels on the rooftops, the Museum worked with our architecture and construction teams to incorporate green elements throughout the design, construction, and operations of the building.

More About Sustainability at NHMU

More About the Design Team


Successful Community Partnership

Construction of the Rio Tinto Center is a result of a successful public/private partnership to raise the total cost of $102.5 million for the project.  The funding came from the federal government, the Utah State Legislature, a bond supported by the voters of Salt Lake County, and over $44 million raised through individual, corporate and foundation philanthropic support. The Museum's building is named the Rio Tinto Center due to the naming-level donation from Kennecott Utah Copper / Rio Tinto which included the donation of the copper used in the building's facade.

Natural History from the Ground Up

With the opening of the Rio Tinto Center, Utah has the natural history museum that a state rich in natural history and assets deserves.  A visit to the Museum allows visitors to explore nature and science in ten themed galleries, and to also step outdoors to experience nature as it's revealed just outside the building.  The exhibits and the Trailhead to Utah encourage visitors to explore nature and science at other museums, national and state parks, and destinations around the state.  And the Museum is passionate about studying science and engaging visitors in current research with a vision toward the future of life in our dynamic and growing region.

More About the Museum's Strategic Goals