This weekend all aspiring archeologists, geologists, biologists, paleontologists, etc. have the opportunity to get a firsthand look at what goes on behind the Natural History Museum of Utah’s many exhibits. The event is going hand in hand with NHMU’s five-year anniversary in their new home, the Rio Tinto Center.

For two days, the museum will open its back doors to the public, which will be able to glimpse how the exhibits come together, meet the scientists who help build the collections, learn about current research and see the curation process for the museum’s exhibits.

Dr. Mitchell Power, a curator of the Herbarium, said visitors would get a better glance at what is not often seen in the museum’s lavish collections, which contains over 1.5 million objects. “We will be opening every door and drawer that we have,” said Power, “including some items that we have stored away to protect from light and humidity will be viewable this weekend only.”

There will also be some new exhibits that will be featured, including The Power of Poison, which houses various species of poisonous plants and animals. The poison exhibit goes into great depths of explaining nature’s deadliest toxins. Power said, “The exhibit will explain the origins of toxicology and alchemy and the science behind it. It will also showcase the poisoning of Socrates and some hands-on detective work for visitors to partake in.” Power explained it best as a biological murder/mystery party: you are presented with a (fake) dead body and you have to find out what toxin or venom poisoned them. “It’s a great way to make learning fun, and that really is our goal: to educate,” he said.

Also included in the exhibit, which Power is personally monitoring, is Utah’s Poisonous Plants which will present the toxic plants that you can find in your own backyard. The exhibit will include live hemlock, poison ivy and death camas. “Death camas resembles the physical characteristics of an onion, but it is not something you want to eat,” Power explained, adding that “What’s interesting about poison ivy is that it’s in the same family of cashews and mangoes, so if you’re allergic to poison ivy you will most likely get the same reaction to those foods.”

The second big exhibit that will be unveiled this weekend is the refurbished Collection Wall. Since the Chronicle did a story on its demolition, significant progress has been made in refurbishing it. The Collection Wall is a three-story wall that contains some of the museum’s most prized and valuable possessions. As part of their five-year anniversary, plenty of new items will be added to the wall.

The regular exhibits will be open to the public as well. The price of admission will be the same–meaning free to all U faculty, staff and students. “Really our main point is to educate the public,” said Power. “People come with questions and we love having educational conversations with them.”

This will be the only chance in a while that you can really explore what is offered in one of the state’s biggest natural history museums; it is not something you want to miss.

Hours of operation are Saturday and Sunday, November 12-13, 2016 – 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. The Natural History Museum of Utah is located at 301 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City. For further information visit https://nhmu.utah.edu/behind-the-scenes.

e.norris@dailyutahchronicle.com

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