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Free museum day gives everyone a chance to learn a bit of history

Published: Saturday, Sept. 29 2012 9:19 p.m. MDT

The Fort Douglas Military Museum.

Ray Boren

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SALT LAKE CITY — Museums across the state, and throughout the nation, participated in the Smithsonian magazine's eighth annual Museum Day Live Saturday.

More than 1,400 museums participated in Museum Day Live, letting two people per household into the museums free of charge. Eight Utah museums, including the For Douglas Museum participated.

"Utah's museums are caretakers of the state's natural and cultural heritage," Margaret Hunt, director of Utah Arts & Museums, said in a prepared statement. "There are more than 150 certified museums in Utah with collections that run the gamut from ancient fossils to avant-garde artwork.

Hunt also encouraged everyone in the state to  visit a museum and enjoy "Utah's wealth of cultural treasures."

"Actually the Fort Douglas Museum is always free because, as a military museum, we do not charge," said Sue Richards, museum research archivist. "It is very nice to be part of the Smithsonian group. It makes it so that we are comfortable with being a good museum, because if we weren't a good museum they wouldn't accept us as part of the group."

Richards said it is also makes it so when people look at the Smithsonian website to find a place to visit in Salt Lake, the Fort Douglas Museum shows up.

Museum Day Live drew more than 350,000 people to museums across the nation and was expected to draw more than 400,000 this year. But the Fort Douglas Museum doesn't keep track of visitors because it is free.

The Fort Douglas Museum covers Utah military history and Utahn's in the military, from the time of the Army Corp of Engineers did the mapping before Utah was a territory to present military history.

"Our newest exhibit is called, 'The Gathering of Soldiers,'" Richards said. "It shows soldiers who have gone to conflict from Fort Douglas from the Indian wars to Afghanistan."

Fort Douglas was decommissioned in 1991 and given to the state, and all 11,000 acres of original Fort Douglas property is now part of the University of Utah.

"One of the most unique features that we have are our historic buildings," Richard said. "The building in which the museum is house was built in 1875."

Richards said that the Army hired local stonemasons and builders to train the soldiers how to build the building.

"Then they (the Army) paid the soldiers that wanted to do that kind of work extra," she said. "And it made it so they had something to do because there were no conflicts going on at the time. 

For those who missed out on the free museum day though, the Fort Douglas Museum is always free.

Twitter: @FinleyJY

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