Highlights: Natural History Museum of Utah

In November 2011, after nearly 20 years of work, friends from throughout the community gathered to celebrate the opening of the Natural History Museum of Utah's landmark new home, the Rio Tinto Center. Nestled into the foothills of the Wasatch Mountain Range, the striking, copper-clad facility reflects a rethinking of the role of natural history museums in our communities and a fulfillment of the our mission to illuminate the natural world and the place of humans within it.

The opening of the Rio Tinto Center coincided with the successful completion of the campaign for the new Museum — a remarkable public/private partnership that raised more than $102.9 million and resulted in the creation of this tremendous new museum adjacent to spectacular, permanently preserved, open spaces. Critical funds for the project were provided by the United States Congress, the State of Utah, the University of Utah, the voters of Salt Lake County, and more than 500 generous private donors. Major private support was provided by Rio Tinto Kennecott, the Emma Eccles Jones Foundation, the George S. and Dolores DorĂ© Eccles Foundation, the Willard L. Eccles Foundation, the R. Harold Burton Foundation, Barbara and Norman Tanner, the Swaner Family, and an anonymous donor.

In the two and a half years since the Museum's Grand Opening, more than 750,000 visitors have explored the Museum's permanent and temporary exhibitions. The Museum building, its design, construction materials, and engineering, the exhibitions and media in the public galleries, and the public art on display have garnered 27 regional, national, and international awards from entities including the American Alliance of Museums, the Society of American Registered Architects, and the European Centre for Architecture. We are particularly proud that the Museum achieved LEED® Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for energy efficient and environmentally responsible design and construction.

In 2014, as we complete the transition from building the new Museum to running it, special exhibitions have become a focus of our efforts. The special exhibition program is a fundamental element of our educational mission. It enables us to leverage the community's remarkable investment in this amazing new facility by offering a series of timely and educational experiences. This year, the special exhibition program features a delicious look at the natural and cultural history of chocolate, and continues this summer and fall with The Horse — an exploration of the evolution of these amazing animals, and the enduring bond between humans and horses.

As we look to the future, the Rio Tinto Center offers tremendous opportunities for research and programs. With generous, ongoing support from a wide range of private and public partners, Museum staff is now advancing strategic goals including becoming a center for University student engagement through research training, internships, and employment opportunities; increasing the number of faculty curators; growing support of field research, including our Range Creek Canyon Research Station; and communicating the research results of University scientists to the general public through exhibits and programs.