It’s history, naturally

If it is true what they say about history — that those who don’t learn from it are doomed to repeat it — perhaps the same can be said for museums of natural history–or, at least, the Utah Museum of Natural History.

Yet again, construction on the seemingly millennia-old “new” natural history museum (the project has been in one degree of motion or another for well over a decade) has been stayed — for the same reason as last time.


Indeed, it may not have been currency that spelled e-x-t-i-n-c-t-i-o-n for the dinos, but it certainly may be the Ice Age that doesn’t thaw in the world of natural history.

The issue is essentially this: The Utah Museum of Natural History, currently in Presidents’ Circle (yeah, you know — it’s that one building; the one you never went into), has outgrown its figurative britches.

Perhaps these britches never fit properly in the first place. Who knows; one way or the other, the miniscule and ultra-low visibility housing at present allows for a fraction of the museum’s immense (and imaginably breathtaking) collection to be open to the public.

If you’re a museum, this makes you unhappy. This makes sense.

What does a museum do? It displays artifacts. What happens when it can’t display artifacts? Its capacity as a museum is essentially diminished.

So plans were made to move the museum and its collection into the foothills — specifically, the pristine part thereof just north of campus, the part by Red Butte Garden (uh-huh, that’s the part that got so many people upset, too).

This all took place around the Crustacean Period.

Fast forward to present day: General quarrels with the proposed location were tamed?still nothing happening.

The problem for a while, museum officials say, is that they were conducting a full environmental survey to ensure their proposed building would not endanger its native environment.

This took time, apparently, despite the fact that issues of environmental viability are at the heart of the best modern architecture, and a building of stature (to measure up to the museum’s own) would necessarily be one that addressed these concerns.

But people don’t really listen to stuff unless someone spent too much money thinking about it. And so survey someone did.

Results indicate, yep — we’ll be fine. Ah, good! So let’s get to building a lovely museum in the beautiful hills!

But wait — we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Any of this proposed good is contingent on a very particular necessary evil presently not present in the equation: money.

Since 1993, museum administrators and supporters have failed to generate the necessary funding for the move — they’ve scrounged up just over half. And nobody wants just half a museum. Except maybe the Dada-ists.

Museum officials credit the financial delay to the fact that they “weren’t asking people for money.”

Indeed — that is one place to start?

With bigger-type concerns about viability out of the way, museum officials expect the process to move more quickly now. They argue, it seems, that they have learned from the mistakes of the past — asking for money generally does, it seems, help you get it.

Kidding aside, this all really is taking unnecessarily long — and it is not necessarily the fault of the museum itself or its curators.

The call must go out to the general public (especially those of you with, like, really deep pockets?filled with money) to recognize that a functioning, elegant natural history museum is of benefit to everyone. It is the type of endeavor which helps ensure the wonder of the past while propelling the wonder of the future. Natural history is the history of life as we experience it, and as those before us have, ever and ever to the dawn of man — and before.

This is our history. Let’s show some respect before we become it.