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Admission to the new Natural History Museum of Utah will be free on opening day, Nov. 18, but visitors must go online at to reserve tickets for specific times.

Officials at the University of Utah, which runs the museum, are expecting big attendance for the much-anticipated event, coming nearly a year after the museum closed its old lower-campus home on Presidents Circle.

For more than two years, the museum's 163,000-square-foot home, called the Rio Tinto Center, has been taking shape near the mouth of Red Butte Canyon in Research Park.

The new building houses the museum's collection in expanded exhibit and storage space. Most of its 10 galleries have interactive features that are the subject of research into the way people learn, according to museum director Sarah George.

"Opening day visitors will be among the first to experience the interactive and stimulating exhibits and view showcased artifacts not seen anywhere else in the world," George said in a news release.

Based on several test openings, officials believe the 51,000 square feet of public space can handle 3,500 to 4,000 visitors in a day. The museum expects to see attendance reach 260,000 in its first year — triple the level reached at the old location — then level off at 200,000 the next year, George said.

Adult admission will be $9, an increase of $2 from the museum's former location, and family memberships cost $95 a year. But the museum will hold free days every three months, starting Friday. People can reserve up to six tickets for opening day. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day but Wednesday, when the museum stays open until 9 p.m.

The building will be dedicated on Thursday at a gala event. Admission is $45.

Coming Sunday

Read all about the new museum, see photos in the print edition of The Salt Lake Tribune and take a visual tour of its exhibit space online at

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