SALT LAKE CITY — Already one of the state’s top visitor attractions, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City has unveiled a main-floor feature intended to make discovering one’s family heritage appealing and fun through interactive technology.
“Discovery Experiences,” a 10,319-square-foot facility, was introduced Tuesday by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its Family History Department.
A prototype for the new exhibit, the FamilySearch Discovery Center, opened two years ago at the nearby Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and similar attractions have been opened in other cities since then. This larger facility will meet demand that the one at the Joseph Smith Building could never quite accommodate, though it will remain open for visitors who come to that building for receptions and other purposes.
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to the assembled group, saying the new attraction is “the first major change in the interior appearance of the Family History Library,” which was dedicated in October 1985.
“This multimillion-dollar project enables personal interactive exhibits to connect families with their ancestors,” he said. “It in many ways is a gift to the community. It’s a gift for families. It’s a gift for groups large and small. It’s terrific for students in schools, for them to come and have these experiences.”
Elder Renlund noted that the new attraction “does not do anything to diminish this facility as a research library, a research facility for both beginner and expert.”
The new attraction offers more than 100 custom iPads, 44 touch-screen monitors and 42 computers with research and discovery-experience capability. Visitors may use any of six recording studios to create free, high-definition videos to preserve family memories.
Elder Bradley D. Foster, general authority Seventy in the LDS Church and the executive director of the Family History Department, said the Family History Library “has massive collections of records, genealogies and other information about families, names and dates. But now it can add more to that. It can help you discover who you are, where you come from, why your parents and grandparents came here.”
Stephen Rockwood, managing director of the Family History Department and president and CEO of FamilySearch International, said the Family Discovery Center launched in 2015 was so successful it couldn’t serve everyone who wanted to experience it.
“We are now able to accommodate full classrooms, busloads of tourists and families of any size,” he said.
Noticing many children in the audience, Rockwood said, “I think some people get this a little backward. They think, ‘This is where parents can bring their kids.’”
On the contrary, he said, children and grandchildren who have experienced it will likely bring the oldsters to have a family experience that causes them to gasp with delight.
Sister Joy D. Jones, the church’s Primary general president, spoke of her own experience with the new facility.
“After over an hour of moving from dock to dock, I realized that I had literally lost track of time, and I had to pull myself away,” she said.
“Why did it captivate me so completely? It was the feeling," she added. "I felt connected to family members here and beyond the veil. I yearned to know more about them, because their stories define who I am.”
Discovery Experiences in the Family History Library opens officially on Wednesday at 8 a.m. Admission is free.