$15 million donated for new natural history museum

By Michael McFall

Construction on a new Utah Museum of Natural History is set to begin this summer, thanks to a $15 million donation from Rio Tinto, the parent company of Kennecott Copper.

“We are thrilled to share this exciting contribution to the continuing, long relationship with the museum and the U,” said Bret Clayton, chief executive of Rio Tinto.

The donation is the largest single corporate donation in U history, and was presented Thursday morning at a ceremony held at Red Butte Garden visitors center.

The building will cost an estimated $98 million and is also being paid for with money from the state and federal government.

“This (donation) is the reflection of a wonderful partnership,” said U President Michael Young. It is rare that two groups can support each other toward the same goal as Rio Tinto and the U have, he said.

A major part of that goal is to get the new building LEED certified, and have it serve as a model of conservation in its energy and resource sustainability. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification is reserved for the most environmentally-friendly buildings. The museum’s exhibits will also be connected by a “sustainability trail,” which will educate visitors about conservation.

Construction is scheduled to begin July 29. The museum, which will be named The Rio Tinto Center, is expected to be completed by early 2011. The new building will be located adjacent to Red Butte Garden in the foothills above Research Park.

The new museum will be divided into several sections, including Early People, Life and Land, most of which will be free of charge. The exterior of the museum will be covered in 42,000 feet of copper, both as a testament to the donator and a portrayal of Utah’s natural resources.

The current museum in Presidents’ Circle will close a few months prior to the new museum’s opening. The building will be remodeled and used for academic purposes, but plans have not been finalized, said Sarah George, executive director of the museum.

[email protected]