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The public can get a sneak preview of exhibits planned for the Utah Museum of Natural History's new home, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at some of the museum's hidden treasures, at Saturday's annual "What's in the Basement" event.
The museum's mount shop will open its doors to show mock ups of the new "Utah Minerals" exhibit, a wall mounted with 50 fist-sized chunks of signature Utah minerals such as Park City pyrite, that have been hidden in collections for four decades. The specimens appear to float off the wall, said Will Clark, supervisor for exhibit services. Also mocked up are a series of 10 allosaurus femurs, the large bone of the upper leg, arranged in size from 10 to 36 inches. All were recovered from Utah's famed Cleveland Lloyd quarry.
Each fall for the past 15 years, the museum has displayed some of its 1.2 million item collection. This year the event comes three weeks before Salt Lake County voters will decide whether to approve a $15 million bond to finish the museum's new building at Red Butte Canyon.
The museum has raised $86 million from private, federal and state sources, but a shortfall remains even as the building nears completion. The bond would go largely toward installing exhibits and other features with a public interface, said associate director Ann Hanniball.
More than 90 percent of the specimens to be displayed in the new museum come from stored collections, so most of the familiar exhibits, many on display since the museum opened in the historic Thomas Building in 1973, will be put away.
Saturday is the last "What's in the Basement" in the old building before it closes Dec. 31, when the process of breaking down exhibits and moving begins. Officials hope to open the new museum next fall and the College of Science will renovate the Thomas building for its new headquarters.
The future of "What's in the Basement" as a public event is uncertain because the collections won't so hidden and compartmentalized in the new building, which has double the museum's exhibition space.
"There will be more access to storage, what we call back of the house. The life of the museum will be much more visible," Hanniball said.
Highlights for Saturday's event include the Garrett Herbarium, where 129,000 pressed plant specimens are stored, American Indian artifacts in the anthropology collections and, of course, dinosaur bones. Specimens from several recently identified dinosaur species will be on display, along with pieces of the first tyrannosaurus recovered in Utah about a decade ago near North Horn Mountain.
Curators will be available to talk about the collections and their use in research.
What's in the Basement
What • Utah Museum of Natural History opens its collections to the public for this annual event, which will be the last at the historic Thomas Building on University of Utah's Presidents Circle. The museum closes Dec. 31 to prepare for the move into its new home at Red Butte Canyon.
When • 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Admission • $7 adults, $3.50 children