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Plans advancing for Capitol Hill museum, security upgrades

Posted at 3:47 PM, Apr 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-11 19:51:56-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Plans are moving forward to build a new state history museum and increase security on Capitol Hill.

The Capitol Preservation Board and architects are finishing designs for the new Museum of Utah, a multi-million dollar facility to replace the old State Office Building and data center that sit north of the Capitol building itself. Demolition will start this summer.

The design, which will closely mirror the existing Capitol, will also include an area for tour buses to come in and a plaza for people to enjoy.

The Museum of Utah will be dedicated to the state's history, said Jill Remington Love, the executive director of Utah's Department of Cultural & Community Engagement.

"We hope to create a place where people see themselves and can identify, this is how I got here, this is how my parents or grandparents got here and really be inclusive," she said Monday. "With the very first settlers, Spanish settlers, Indigenous people, it will tell everyone’s story."

Exhibits are being designed now. Some artifacts — like the Utah State Constitution — have never been seen by the public before, Love said. Currently, many historic items in the state's collections sit in a leaky basement in the Rio Grande Building, which was heavily damaged in an earthquake.

"We’re excited that we get to bring them above ground, that we’ll have a safe space for them here. The basement of this building will be for the collection, it will be built so that plumbing and electrical are in one place and collections are in another place. And upstairs, we get to share it," Love said.

In addition to the museum, the Utah Department of Public Safety is planning a perimeter security upgrade. The Capitol Preservation Board is planning to "flip the strip" on parking strips surrounding the entire Capitol Hill complex. It'll save water (something Governor Spencer Cox has pushed for) but also include a noticeable security upgrade — concrete blocks that can serve as benches and block vehicles from accessing the grounds and threatening visitors and lawmakers.

Bollards were installed immediately surrounding the Capitol and House and Senate buildings following a 2013 incident where a man drove a vehicle up the west steps directly underneath the governor's office. The concrete barricades will block access to the perimeter of the grounds. FOX 13 News is told it will be less noticeable than a barricade or a fence, similar to concrete blocks at the base of the south steps of the Capitol.

The Utah Department of Public Safety cautioned that final designs have not yet been approved by the Capitol Preservation Board, but is among a number of security measures implemented in recent years including hundreds of new security cameras and additional Utah Highway Patrol troopers stationed on the grounds.

"Safety and security at the Capitol are a shared responsibility for the public and DPS. We take our responsibility very seriously. We hope the public does, too. We are always monitoring threats and investigating credible ones. We are always working to improve safety, while balancing the public’s right to witness how their government works," said Joe Dougherty, the director of public affairs for DPS.

The entire project is expected to be completed by 2026.