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Mike Terry, Deseret News
Chair of the Emma Eccles Jones Foundation Clark P. Giles (far left) gives a congratulatory handshake to Spencer Eccles upon announcement of a 5 million dollar donation to be an incentive to raise the rest of the money needed for the museum, which has been largely possible due to the Eccles foundations. Sarah Giles, wife of Clark, sits in the middle.

Ground was broken Tuesday with copper-bladed shovels on what Governor Jon M. Huntsman is calling the greatest classroom of all — the land.

After years of planning and fundraising, construction will begin in mid-August on the Museum of Natural History's new facility at the Rio Tinto Center.

"It's a little about people, and it's a little about the land, and it's a little about our heritage," Huntsman said, "and it all comes together very nicely in this new museum."

The new building will be home to more than a million artifacts that tell Utah's story. Located just south of Red Butte Gardens, it will feature eight themed galleries, a children's gallery, and a cafe.

The building takes its name from one of its benefactors — Kennecott Copper. Additionally, portions of the building's exterior will feature copper from the company's Bingham Canyon Mine.

Because the new location is a popular area for hiking, dog-walking and biking, the outside grounds will also include an area for watering dogs, open grassland, and free access areas where hikers can use restrooms and get water or visit the cafe.

"We hope people will see it as a gathering place," said Patti Carpenter, the museum's public relations manager.

Part of the design process included an environmental impact study. Planners for the new site used information gathered in the study to determine the best placement of the building.

"We wanted to leave the areas with the best habitat in place," said museum director Sarah George.

The building will rest on land that is badly eroded, full of bush-whacked trails and non-native, weedy plants, George said. The building will be located above the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and the museum's parking areas will be located below the trail.

People on the trail will be re-routed during business hours, but a construction fence will be put up at night, allowing access to the trail at night and on the weekend.

In addition to beginning construction, the Museum of Natural History will be campaigning for the final sum of money to finance the project. The George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation announced today they are putting up a $5 million capstone challenge grant to be issued when the museum has successfully raised $12 million of the $17 million remaining.

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