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'Treasures of the Collection' exhibit features church cultural celebrations

Published: Saturday, March 24 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Memorabilia from Old Folks Day, an event honoring members of the older generation and their accomplishments, in a "Treasures of the Collection" exhibit.

Rick Wallace

SALT LAKE CITY — The spring "Treasures of the Collection" open house at the LDS Church History Library features church cultural celebrations and will run through April 7. The event is free and open to the public.

Nearly 140 items are on display in 12 exhibits, covering topics including LDS Church and cultural celebrations; early youth organizations; the New York World's Fair; church sports; and the 1952 Helsinki, 2002 Salt Lake and 2006 Torino Italy Olympic Games.

April Williamsen, public programming coordinator for the Church History Department, said the committee that selects the subjects and items to showcase does its best to pick things that will be interesting to everyone who visits, regardless of whether they are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

For example, events like the "Days of '47," featured in one of the exhibits, have been going on for years and aren't necessarily Mormon-exclusive.

"It reaches across the boundaries of member and nonmember alike," Williamsen said. "It's a Utah celebration, but it is a cultural celebration for the church, so understanding where we're coming from with a lot of this presents a whole new aspect to church history for a lot of people."

The open house can teach visitors a lot about early church culture in Utah as well as where and how the church has had an influence on people and events throughout the world.

"It's just these little things that you come across, that you have no idea the church was involved or that this is part of what we used to do, and we don't do it anymore. You know, the dances, and the all-church softball and basketball, all these fun things that the church has grown so big now that they can't really do it that way … it's not quite like it was," Williamsen said.

She hopes the displays will generate interest in people to donate their own items to the Church History Library's collection.

One item on display is the journal of a young woman who participated in the Hill Cumorah Pageant. When Williamsen was looking for a journal for the display, she came across a number of journals from missionaries who had served in the Eastern States Mission over the years. Many mentioned a rehearsal or participating in the pageant, Williamsen said, but didn't really write about it.

"So we're always looking for something that documents it, that talks about it, that talks about their feelings," she said. "We're always wanting to add to the collection because we have gaps all over the place where we really don't have a lot of information. We have a lot of church-produced brochures and pamphlets, things like that, but (we need) the personal touch that comes from the average church member that attended."

The semiannual "Treasures of the Collection" open houses run in conjunction with general conference and began when the Church History Library opened in 2009. Williamsen estimated that each previous open house has had about 2,000 visitors.

The event was two days long until this year; it has been extended to over two weeks to give more people the opportunity to attend.

"We had so many comments after our last one, of people wanting us to leave it up a little bit longer so they could come," Williamsen said.

The planning process for each open house begins about three years in advance, when a committee of Church History Library and Church History Museum employees decides on a theme.

Production on each open house begins two weeks after the previous one has ended. The committee members select items to be put into the exhibits, which are then assembled with the help of multiple departments. Once the items have been selected, accompanying text is written, edited, approved and evaluated for correlation and copyright.

The committee members work on the open house in addition to their other work responsibilities, so it takes about six months to pull the whole thing together.

"This has been a great learning experience, at least for me and the others that have worked on it," Williamsen said. "It's been lots of fun."

The exhibit is open Monday-Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Saturday, March 24, and Friday, March 30, the exhibit will be open until 9 p.m. On Saturday, March 31, hours are noon to 2 p.m. and 4-9 p.m.

For more information, call 801-240-2745 or visit history.lds.org/event/spring-treasures-2012.

Email: rbrutsch@desnews.com

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