Tight space, aging records and a growing membership have left the current LDS history library crowded and inadequate.
But Friday, church leaders broke ground on a new Church History Library for the "recordmaking and recordkeeping people" of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"The church grows and the volume of the records continues to increase in large numbers. I don't know if we'll ever build a building large enough to hold them all. But this is an attempt to do this," said President Gordon B. Hinckley, joking that the current history library in the Church Office Building has "accumulated so much that if we don't move it out of there, it will break the floors."
He said the groundbreaking marked "a day of history in the history of the church" and added that the state-of-the art facility will be "very interesting and magnificent."
The five-floor, 250,000-square-foot building will be located on the northeast corner of the intersection of North Temple and Main streets. It will house the growing historical collection, which currently includes 3.5 million manuscripts, 210,000 publications, 100,000 photographs and 50,000 audiovisual productions.
"It is very essential that our history be preserved and preserved appropriately, written appropriately and preserved appropriately, so that future generations can benefit from that which takes place today and has taken place in years gone by," said President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency. "We benefit from what our fathers have done for us, and we have the privilege through sacred records, which will be maintained here to provide a legacy for those who follow."
Since the church's beginning in 1830, there have been historians who kept detailed records, President Hinckley said.
The 95-year-old church leader offered a dedicatory prayer and used a small shovel, crafted by Brigham Young and used when LDS leader G. Homer Durham dedicated the Church History Museum, to dig into a large dirt pile. After the gesture, President Hinckley, President Monson and President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, took "the real thing," large gold-colored shovels, to turn over the dirt and invited the audience to take part in the groundbreaking.
Currently, a parking lot occupies the site, east of the Conference Center. Salt Lake-based MHTN architects will design the library to visually complement the Conference Center. Construction is expected to begin later this year, with completion scheduled for late 2007.
"We're very thrilled. We've needed this facility," said Richard E. Turley Jr., managing director of the Family and Church History department. "Most people think that paper and film and so forth last forever. They do not. . . . This building is designed specifically for this purpose."
The new building will put emphasis on environmental controls, such as temperature, humidity and lighting, to preserve materials that deteriorate with age. He did not know cost but said it will be substantial.
"We (church membership) have grown from probably 5 million to 12 million while we've been in the current Church Office Building," which was dedicated in the early '70s, said Elder Marlin K. Jensen, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy who serves as church historian and recorder. "You name it, we store it here if it has to do with the history of the church."
Many employees and missionaries who work and serve in the Church History Library attended the dedication and expressed their excitement over the new building.