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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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@TheChrony

Timothy Lee finds his artist’s calling at the Natural History Museum of Utah

“I guess museums have always been in my blood,” said Timothy Lee, exhibit manager and designer at the Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU).

Lee grew up by the old Museum of Natural History — which used to be located in Presidents Circle before moving above Research Park — and now plays an integral role in developing the experiences museum visitors have.

He desribes his path as “meandering.” It wasn’t a straight line from school to his current position. Lee received an undergraduate degree in art at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, but soon after started to question his path.

“I was feeling some buyer’s remorse,” Lee said with a laugh.

tim lee 2

Finding it difficult to make a living as an artist, he made the tough decision to invest in school again. Lee then completed a post-baccalaureate degree in graphic design at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. While trying to build a portfolio and gain clients — a task Lee said is not easy in the graphic design field — his life took a unique turn. He fell in love with an Italian exchange student, and the pair left together for Milan.

“We broke up almost immediately,” Lee said, “but I viewed it as an opportunity to find work in Milan.”

He teamed up with an architecture company and helped design showrooms for high-end Italian products. After three years, Lee decided he missed his family and moved back to Utah. Upon his homecoming, he heard of a job opening at the NHMU for an exhibit designer.

“I had no idea that job existed until I saw it advertised,” Lee said.

Lee, acknowleding that he’d traveled an unusual path, applied for the position. He felt his work as an artist and graphic designer could make him an ideal candidate.

“The most important thing, I think, is that I was always saying yes to opportunities,” he said.

tim lee 3

Lee now enjoys creating user-centered designs for the museum’s patrons, “bringing art and science together, storytelling in a physical space.” His job combines all sorts of media, including graphics, interactives, illustrations, audio, text and more.

Lee’s work includes the museum’s three-story “Collections Wall,” which features butterfly specimens and rock collections behind a glass panel. He most recently finished the temporary exhibit, “Birds of Paradise,” on loan at the NHMU from National Geographic, and the new “Pigeons” exhibition, exploring the genetics and evolution of the bird, that complements it.

Josh Kelly, a guest services associate, admired the design of the two exhibits.

“I love the coloration of the room and all the interactive displays,” Kelly said. “I’ve noticed that a lot more kids have gotten involved in this exhibit than some of our other ones.”

“Birds of Paradise” includes an interactive called “Dance Dance Evolution.” Visitors learn the mating and courtship dance of a bird and can test their skills in a competition with other visitors. Both exhibits recently opened to the public.

[email protected]

@NikiVenugopal

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