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Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
Arlo Johnson paints a scene of Camp Floyd in the late 1850s as part of an exhibit at Fort Douglas Museum in Salt Lake City, where an exhibit on the Utah War is being developed and patrons can watch Johnson as he completes his work.

Two glass-plate photographs are all Utah artist Arlo Johnson has for references as he paints a mural of historic Camp Floyd at the Fort Douglas Museum.

The mural will be the welcoming exhibit in the museum's Utah War display, which includes artifacts dating back to the arrival of the United States military 10 years after Mormon pioneers first settled in Utah.

True to the era, photographers documenting Camp Floyd, sometime between 1857 and 1860, took broad views of the camp from the middle of the parade ground. As such, the pictures, and the mural, will show rows of buildings on the far sides of a center field of nothing but dirt.

Recent excavations produced some helpful artifacts, including an adobe brick that rests on a table close to where Johnson is painting, providing a good color match for all of that earth he will be painting.

Besides being the museum's resident artist, Johnson formerly served in the Utah National Guard's 19th Special Forces and 23rd Army Band. He is also a docent at the museum.

Visitors are welcome as the exhibit develops during the next few weeks. Johnson will be working on the mural for several more weeks, mostly on Friday afternoons.

Joining the Utah War exhibit will be an exhibit of horse-soldier artifacts from a Montana collection by Hayes Otoupalik, who spent 50 years building his collection.

Visitors to the museum will also notice an ongoing expansion project that is awaiting $500,000 in funding currently in the governor's budget request with another $800,000 hoped for in a federal funding bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah.

In addition, the museum plans an expansion of its contemporary military exhibit, which focuses on present-day military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, said research archivist Su Richards. Saddam Hussein's boots, recovered from the hole where he was found hiding, will likely continue to be the most infamous artifact in the contemporary exhibit. The expansion of that exhibit should be finished by Labor Day, Richards said.

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com