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Fun Free Access to Rarely-Seen Collections with Behind the Scenes, a Week of Virtual Discovery with Ty Burrell and NHMU Scientists

Webcast Events to Replace Annual Public Opening of Museum's Treasured Collections

Sunday, November 8, 2020


Nov. 08, 2020 – The Natural History Museum of Utah's (NHMU) annual Behind the Scenes event will be hosted online this year with the help of one very special guest. Actor Ty Burrell, of Modern Family fame, will join the Salt Lake City-based museum to introduce a series of online webcasts that will explore NHMU's famed collections starting November 15.

The reinvented annual event will kick-off this Saturday, November 14 when the Museum goes live with five brand-new web experiences specific to anthropology, botany, entomology, vertebrates, and paleontology. These sites will be treasure troves, filled with some combination of rare collections objects, brand new blog posts, 3D models, and videos available on-demand.

There will also be one-hour nightly primetime specials running Sunday thru Thursday, November 15-19 at 7 p.m. These events will allow viewers to become Ty Burrell’s sidekick as he begins each special by virtually touring the NHMU’s coolest collections, chats with the Museum’s director, and giving his own scientific spin on things. You’ll then be treated to an in-depth discussion with Museum scientists followed by a chance to ask your own questions of NHMU researchers, live, during the Q&A.

“We wanted to deliver something truly innovative to continue in the beloved tradition of our annual Behind the Scenes with the current restrictions in place,” said Jason Cryan, executive director of the Natural History Museum of Utah. “We’re grateful for the generous funding from the Salt Lake County Community Partners grant as well as the additional support provided by the Alternative Visions Fund to make this possible. The new format allows for more – and deeper – access to Museum collections than ever before. We also very much appreciate the help of longtime Museum member Ty Burrell, who donated his time in support of this year’s Behind the Scenes. I can’t wait for the public to join me and Ty on this adventure!”

In addition to Behind the Scenes, NHMU has utilized this funding to partner with Salt Lake County Libraries, Salt Lake City Libraries, and community-based organizations, to provide 7,200 Science Kits to geographically- and demographically-diverse families in Salt Lake County. These Science Kits include English and Spanish-language anthropology and paleontology education with “Meet the Scientist” materials featuring NHMU experts; insights and stories about artifacts from NHMU collections; and activity supplies for participants to complete a science-themed project.

These Science Kits are a complement to next week’s online expeditions, which will include research and insights from NHMU scientific work out in the field: the science and stories revealed from fossils deep within Utah caves, granaries high on cliff ledges, and tiny mammals living within the Great Basin. In addition, scientists will answer some fascinating and of-the-moment questions like Where did all the mammoths go? and Why are there so many wildfires right now?

“We’ve worked hard to rework this event to create a unique and highly accessible format that still gives our guests an inside look at the discoveries taking place in Utah while giving them opportunities to interact and engage with our scientists,” said Randy Irmis, chief curator and curator of paleontology. “We are always excited to present access to collection objects not normally on display at the Museum, and are grateful that we have the ability to host the event in this format this year.”

For additional information and details on the event, including information on how to pick up a free Behind the Scenes take-home science kit with activities for kids, visit:


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About the Natural History Museum of Utah

The Natural History Museum of Utah is one of the leading scientific research and cultural institutions in the country. Established in 1963, the Museum’s collections contain over 1.6 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. With an expected attendance of 300,000 visitors a year, 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 science program with more than 30 scientists and 10 field exhibitions each year.