News Release

Church History Museum Closes for 
Interior Renovation

Thirty years after its opening, the Church History Museum on Temple Square in Salt Lake City will close on 6 October 2014, for one year to complete major interior renovations. The museum will be open through Sunday, 5 October, and will reopen in the fall of 2015 with a newly designed floor plan and exhibits.

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“While we’re saddened about the closing for a year, we’re very excited about the prospects of the future, and we do intend to open before October general conference in 2015,” said Elder Steven E. Snow of the First Quorum of the Seventy, Church historian and recorder and executive director of the Church History Department. “We’re confident that the renovations and new exhibit will be become a very popular visit for our members and friends alike.”

More than 7 million visitors from all over the world have traveled to the museum since it was dedicated by former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley in 1985. “We’ve had over 108 different exhibits in the 30 years we’ve been open featuring a wide variety of art, artifacts and historical themes,” reported Elder Snow.

The beginnings of the Church History Museum extend back to 1869, when pioneer John Young established the Salt Lake City Museum and Menagerie. Nearly 150 years later, the Church History Museum continues that tradition by preserving the history of the Church from its earliest days in upstate New York to the global organization of today.

The Heavens Are Opened, a major new Church history exhibition, will open in the fall of 2015 to replace the previous display titled A Covenant Restored, which has been enjoyed by nearly 7 million visitors since it opened some 25 years ago. The Heavens Are Opened is an inspiring new installation that tells the story of the early history of the Church through 1846. It features Church founder Joseph Smith as a boy and the scripture study that led him to ask God which church was true. The new exhibit will follow the movement of the Church from New York to Missouri and Kirtland and eventually Nauvoo.

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“We are excited to tell some stories in ways we have never told them before,” said museum director Alan Johnson. “These exhibits offer wonderful opportunities to connect our patrons to the history and art of the Church.”

“In addition to the approximately 200 pieces of either artifacts or pieces of art, which will include several new commissions, there will be about two dozen media pieces that will also help tell the story,” added Johnson. “These will [include] interactive maps, kiosks and other media elements.”

Many historically significant artifacts will be included in the new exhibit, including the Grandin printing press, John Taylor’s pocket watch, and the death masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. The new renovation allows for a more in-depth depiction of the early history of the Church, with many original documents and artifacts shown in a permanent installation for the first time.

“We are delighted with the opportunities that this new exhibition provides us to share with our visitors some of the most treasured artifacts and original, often hand-written documents from the Church’s founding years,” said Maryanne Andrus, Church History Museum exhibits manager.

The exhibition will feature several replicas and reproductions featuring locations like the Whitmer cabin, where the Church was officially established, and Liberty Jail, where Joseph Smith was incarcerated. “The artifacts invite us to remember the faith, hard work and sacrifices of these people,” said Andrus.

Media and technology will be utilized in exciting new ways to tell the story of the history of the Church, including an interactive map tracing the travels of the earliest missionaries, a hands-on opportunity to be a scribe in translating the Book of Mormon and a depiction of an early meeting of the Relief Society in the Red Brick Store.

One of the signature media experiences will be a First Vision Theater where visitors will have the opportunity to see a new movie depicting Joseph Smith’s description of his 1820 vision in the Sacred Grove in upstate New York. “The theater will help establish the important role of revelation in the founding and ongoing history of the Church,” explained Kurt Graham, one of the museum’s senior curators.

It’s not just the history exhibit that will undergo changes in the coming year.  Staff will also be working on the next international art competition, which will also open in the fall of 2015.  These are juried art competitions that include artworks in many different mediums from LDS artists around the world. The 10th International Art Competition will be organized around the theme Tell Me the Stories of Jesus.  Further details about this competition will be coming in the next few months.

The Church History Museum is located directly west of Temple Square at 45 North West Temple Street in downtown Salt Lake City. For more information and to follow updates during the closure, please visit the museum’s website.

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