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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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U breaks ground on new museum

By Michael McFall

With copper shovels in hand, powerful figures such as Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Spencer Eccles and U President Michael Young broke ground on the new Utah Museum of Natural History Tuesday morning.

The ceremony commenced shortly after an announcement by Young that the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation has promised a $5 million donation toward the museum. The donation is in addition to the $10 million the foundation donated eight years ago when the project was being developed.

The foundation will not donate the $5 million until the museum raises the additional $17 million it needs to pay for the project.

Spencer Eccles said they agreed July 24 to make the donation with the hope that it would create a drive to complete the last leg of fundraising.

“I hope this promise will serve as a catalyst?and a capstone,” he said.

The initial $10 million the foundation promised sparked the Utah State Legislature to put $15 million toward the project.

The museum has raised $81 million so far, which is enough to begin construction, said Sarah George, executive director of the museum. The construction will begin Aug. 2 at the new site in Red Butte Garden.

In order for the new museum to maintain costs, it will need to bring in at least 70,000 people a year.

While there have been some concerns that the new location may draw fewer patrons than the current site located along Presidents’ Circle, Young said he isn’t worried. The new locale is easier to reach by car than the current museum, as well as for hikers and naturalists who are on foot, he said. The beautiful view will also be a draw, since visitors will be able to see the whole valley from the exhibit’s windows, he said.

The new museum’s exterior will be coated in 42,000 square feet of copper, a gift from Kennecott Utah Copper. The copper is part of a $15 million donation the company made in May. The new museum will be named The Rio Tinto Center after Kennecott’s parent company, Rio Tinto.

“Not including Michaelsaur?there are still plenty of dinosaur species left to name if anyone wants to make their own generous donation,” Young said.

Andrew Harding, president and CEO of Kennecott, was present at the groundbreaking to thank all of the estimated 700 attendees for their support of the project.

Harding said he looks forward to the educated and talented young minds that he could hire thanks to the presence of the new museum.

He said his only disappointment with the project is the size of the copper groundbreaking shovels. As a mining man, he would have the entire groundbreaking done in two seconds, Harding said.

Planning for the exhibits are nearly complete. The larger building’s exhibits will showcase nearly all of the museum’s 1.2 million objects at once, most of which have to be rotated in Presidents’ Circle location.

The Rio Tinto Center will feature exhibits organized into eight thematic areas, including the Utah Sky, The Land, First Peoples and Utah Futures.

The insect exhibit, which is part of the planned Life exhibit, might feature a special specimen named after Huntsman. The governor said at the ceremony that the name of Harding’s company will be remembered because of the building, while he may be remembered in name thanks to a spider.

A Costco in Sandy discovered a Huntsman spider, native to Australia, among their shipping crates and donated it to the museum. If it survives long enough to find a place in the new museum’s Life exhibit, the governor said the public can forever remember him as connected to an evil and vile creature.

No matter what specimens make it into the finished museum, the governor said that he hopes the new site will serve as a classroom and teach a new generation about the unique land they live in, and how they can apply it in the future.

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Editor’s note: This article has been edited to reflect that the Utah State Legislature gave the U $15 million for the project. The amount was misstated in the original story.

Thien Sok

U President Michael Young was among the powerful state figures that gathered Tuesday morning to break ground on the new site for the Utah Museum of Natural History. Construction on the new building is scheduled to begin Aug. 2.

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