Summer fun, learning found at Church, BYU museums

Exhibits offer families a host of budget-friendly excursions

Despite the tenaciously chilly, wet weather being felt along Utah’s Wasatch Front, summertime temperatures will eventually arrive.

Ray Halls discusses elements of the exhibit with museum volunteer Donis Meiners.
Ray Halls discusses elements of the exhibit with museum volunteer Donis Meiners. Credit: Jason Swensen, Deseret News

With school soon ending and the thermometer rising, many LDS families are searching for some cool summer activities that include educational and spiritual learning. Visits to the Church History Museum or one of Brigham Young University’s many on-campus museums can offer inspiring and easy-on-the-budget family excursions. All are open throughout the summer, and they won’t cost you a dime to enter.

Located immediately west of Temple Square in Salt Lake City, the Church History Museum remains the definitive destination to discover and celebrate the history of the restored gospel through artifacts, artwork and interactive displays. Millions of visitors from all backgrounds have learned the rich history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members as they wander through the museum’s permanent historical exhibit located on the main floor. Here the story is told of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon, the organization of the Church and the subsequent movement of the faithful to Kirtland, Nauvoo, and finally into the Salt Lake Valley. Also highlighted in the permanent exhibit are the Church’s global missionary program and the development of a welfare program that allows members today to practice “pure religion.”

Other permanent displays found at the Church History Museum include the popular hall of the Church presidents and a recently-opened exhibit that chronicles the history of the Relief Society.

The skeletal frame of Utah's state dinosaur, at left, and Camptosaurus, at right, are on display at BYU's Paleontology Museum.
The skeletal frame of Utah’s state dinosaur, at left, and Camptosaurus, at right, are on display at BYU’s Paleontology Museum. Credit: Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

Several temporary exhibits at the museum can also help visitors of all ages better appreciate and understand the mission of the Church and its people. “Mi Vida, Mi Historia” tells the story of the remarkable growth of the Church in Latin America via the accounts of several faithful members from Mexico and Central and South America. The exhibit is interactive, allowing visitors to choose from a variety of video clips and interviews offering glimpses into the lives of faithful members who have dedicated their lives to their faith. “Mi Vida, Mi Historia” is offered in English and Spanish and will be on display until Jan. 16, 2012.

Playful clown Kachina dolls are included in exhibit at BYU's Museum of Peoples and Cultures, one of many museums on the school's campus.
Playful clown Kachina dolls are included in exhibit at BYU’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures, one of many museums on the school’s campus. Credit: Jason Swensen, Church News

Other temporary exhibits at the Church History Museum include a photography display of Church historic sites from early 20th century photographer George Edward Anderson and a multi-galleried exhibit celebrating one of the world’s most unique buildings, the Tabernacle on Temple Square. Families with Primary children also have a few more months to enjoy the “I Am A Child of God” exhibit on the museum’s upper floor.

BYU boasts a variety of museums that can satiate one’s interest in art, history and the wonders of the natural world.

BYU's Museum of Peoples and Cultures is located in Allen Hall on the school's Provo campus.
BYU’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures is located in Allen Hall on the school’s Provo campus. Credit: Jason Swensen, Church News

Dinosaur lovers can spend a day or more at the BYU Museum of Paleontology. The museum was opened decades ago to prepare, house and display the rock and dinosaur fossils collected by school professor James A. Jensen and his teams over decades of field work. The museum functions as a hands-on lab for university students and as a gathering place for visitors of all ages who enjoy standing eye-to-eye with one of the museum’s “terrible lizards.”

The Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum offers a more contemporary glance at the world. The popular museum includes collections of animals, plants and bugs from around the world. Several summer activities can help young visitors better understand the wild and woolly things they may have only seen in magazines or internet pages.

The school’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures is home to anthropology-themed exhibits, programs and research. It’s an ideal place to learn about the indigenous cultures of the American Southwest and their traditions, artifacts and art. The museum is both a learning center for BYU students and a favorite destination for youngsters and Boy Scouts.

Art lovers are likely already familiar with the BYU Museum of Art and its diverse offering of permanent exhibits and traveling shows. Considered one of the premier university art museums in the country, the BYU-MOA will mark the summer of 2010 presenting interactive and photo exhibits, along with a display of American art pulled from the facility’s vast permanent collection.