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Packing Up

The Utah Museum of Natural History begins preparations for a big move.
Top to bottom: UMNH volunteer Mary Garr records artifacts in preparation for the move; pots from the museum’s collection; UMNH intern Katie Green carefully packs artifacts.
Down in the basement of the Utah Museum of Natural History are catacombs containing floor-to-ceiling metal shelves holding artifacts from world cultures dating from ancient times to the 20th century. From Peruvian effigies and Anasazi black-on-white jars to Pacific Northwest coastal tribes’ carved masks, it’s all part of the museum’s extensive anthropology collection.

Glenna Nielsen PhD’90, anthropology collections manager, huddles with three longtime volunteers at a work station preparing specimens for the move to the new museum, the Rio Tinto Center, scheduled to open in early 2011. If that seems a long way off, consider this: It will take museum workers and volunteers a full year to pack up the museum’s collections, and another year to slowly move everything to its new home east of Research Park.

It’s a daunting task, but the museum got a boost recently when it was awarded a $500,000 Save America’s Treasures grant from the federal government to support the costs associated with the move. The grant will provide funding to purchase acid-free materials for transporting the artifacts and new metal cabinet drawers for storage.

Nielsen and her colleagues examine a pot to assess its condition, then check its tag to be sure the information noted there is accurate. Any corrections or updates to the information are then entered into a database. (Since the museum was founded in 1969, more than three different recording systems have been used. One of the benefits of this huge project is that it affords an opportunity to consolidate the data into one electronic collections management system, ensuring that artifacts are tracked by a consistent method.) Once the pot is inventoried, it is carefully cleaned and placed into a polyethylene plastic bag—no vinyl allowed, since it emits gas fumes that can cause damage to the artifacts. The bag is left unsealed so air can flow around the object, reducing the threat of damage from mold. Finally, it goes into an acid-free cardboard packing box lined with foam.

It’s a time-consuming process that will play out repeatedly as the museum packs up 1.2 million artifacts. Each of the museum’s seven collection areas—botany, entomology, ethnology, malacology, mineralogy, paleontology, and vertebrates—has its own unique plan for the move, but the rules are basically the same, according to the museum’s Chief Curator of Archeology Duncan Metcalfe MA’82 PhD’87. “Don’t lose or break any objects,” he says, ticking off the logistical challenges that lay ahead. “Have good inventories, and use careful packing and handling. Don’t introduce unwanted guests into the new facility—which mainly means bugs—so freeze, then thaw, then refreeze organic specimens. Make efficient use of limited resources—plan carefully to integrate the moves of the various collections, and utilize skilled volunteers. And where necessary, reorganize the individual collections to make them more useful to researchers and programs for the public.”

—Ann Whitney Floor BFA’85 is a writer with University Marketing & Communications.

Campus Notebook

John A. White
John A. White

New Executive Director of the Brain Institute Named John A. White, a University of Utah biomedical engineering professor who studies how the human brain processes information, has been selected as the new executive director of the U of U Brain Institute. White joined the University in 2007 as part of the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) Economic Development Initiative and is a Brain Institute investigator. He succeeds Thomas N. Parks, professor of neurobiology and anatomy, who last year was appointed University vice president for research. Before coming to Utah, White spent 13 years on the biomedical engineering faculty at Boston University, where he was professor and interim chair. He has published more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and has been the principal or co-principal investigator on grants totaling more than $40 million.

Grant Supports Music Scholarships, Student Productions, and Kingsbury Hall The Nancy Peery Marriott Foundation, The Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation, and The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation have collectively pledged $3 million to the University of Utah to establish an endowment that will support students in the School of Music, student performance productions, and Kingsbury Hall’s main programming season. In recognition, the auditorium at historic Kingsbury Hall on the U of U campus has been named the Nancy Peery Marriott Auditorium. The Nancy Peery Marriott Endowed Fund for Scholarship, Performance and Production will provide scholarships and fellowships for music students and will also support student performance productions in opera, musical theater, jazz, and related programs in music, theater, and dance that take place in Kingsbury Hall. The fund will also support the professional “Kingsbury Hall Presents” season.

New Mine Safety Chair Established The University of Utah recently announced the Western Mining Presidential Chair in Mine Safety, a $1.5 million endowment created through an effort led by J. Brett Harvey BS’77, president and CEO of Consol Energy, and Greg Lang, president of Barrick Gold North America. The new chair will be part of the University’s Department of Mining Engineering, in the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, and will be filled by someone with experience in mining engineering, mine safety, or a closely related discipline. The holder of the chair in Mine Safety will provide specific instruction in the technology and practices of modern mine safety for University students as well as the mining community at large.

Sutton building
The Frederick Albert Sutton Building

Sutton Building Opens The Frederick Albert Sutton Building, new home to the Department of Geology and Geophysics and the administrative offices of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, celebrated its grand opening on April 17. The four-story, 91,000-square-foot building cost $27 million—all from private donations—with primary financing from Marta Sutton Weeks in honor of her late father, Frederick Albert Sutton, a Utah geologist who received a degree in mining engineering from the University of Utah in 1917. Rio Tinto was another major donor, providing funds for the Earthquake Information Center—the primary seismograph tracking station in the Intermountain West—which is located on the building’s ground floor. As the first LEED-certified building on the U’s academic campus, the project includes sustainable features, several of which were suggested and designed by students.

Turkish Studies Project Launched A new Turkish studies project, “The Origins of Modern Ethnic Cleansing: The Collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the Emergence of Nation States in the Balkans and Caucasus,” was launched this spring by Hakan Yavuz, associate professor of political science with a joint appointment in the University of Utah’s Middle East Center. This four-year project, funded in part by the Turkish Coalition of America, will explore the shaping of modern Turkish identity through scholarly work, conferences, community participation, and support for new research, much of which will focus on a series of traumatic formative events including crises in the Balkans and the Caucasus, the loss of major territories, and forced migration that presaged the establishment of the Turkish Republic. Over the next four years, this project will fund graduate students, research, publications, and a series of interdisciplinary conferences.

In Memoriam

William Fowler BA’50 PhD’54, 91, composer and founder of the University of Utah’s jazz major and guitar programs

Willem J. Kolff, 97, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of bioengineering, surgery, and medicine

Larry H. Miller, 64, a major philanthropic supporter of the U and recipient of an Honorary Alumnus award from the Alumni Association

To read longer versions of these memoria, click here.

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A Splendid Season

The U of U’s basketball and gymnastics teams enjoy a stellar 2008-2009
Carlon Brown
Carlon Brown
Kristina Baskett
Kristina Baskett
The University of Utah’s men’s and women’s basketball teams and women’s gymnastics team had everyone seeing red in 2008-2009. Coach Jim Boylen guided the men’s basketball team to the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship with a 24-10 overall record, landing the Utes in the NCAA Tournament and the national Top 25 for the first time in four years, although the No. 5-seeded Utes fell to the No. 12-seed Arizona Wildcats in the first round. The women, led by Elaine Elliott, had an equally stellar season, clinching a top spot in the Mountain West Conference by winning both the regular season and tournament titles. They, too, went on to the NCAA Tournament, defeating Villanova in the first round, but falling to Maryland in the second.

The Red Rocks gymnasts, led by Greg Marsden, bounded between the first, second, and third spots in the NCAA rankings, then took the NCAA West Region Championships—and went on to the NCAA Championships in Lincoln, Neb., finishing third. Their strong finish should come as no surprise, as the Rocks have made it to the championships for 27 straight years. Go Utes!

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Patrick Reimherr

   The University of Utah’s Patrick Reimherr is one of only 65 students selected as a 2009 Truman Scholar from more than 3,000 applicants. The prestigious scholarship provides each recipient $30,000 for graduate studies as well as priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special fellowship opportunities within the federal government. Reimherr, currently student body president, is the third straight Truman Scholar at the University of Utah but one of only five Truman Scholars selected from a Utah university in the past 11 years. Working toward honors degrees in political science and economics, Reimherr expects to graduate in May 2010. Afterward, he hopes to pursue a master’s degree in public policy followed by a doctorate in political science with a concentration in elections and governance studies.

For additional accolades, visit and select “Recognizing U.”

Three Questions

Steven Sternfeld

STEVEN STERNFELD Associate professor of linguistics and recipient of the 2009 John R. Park Award

What book should every person read and why? Whatever book will compel you to pick it up again and again over the years to understand how much you have grown.

If you could meet any notable person, who would it be and why? Dante Alighieri. Last semester, some 40 years after having read Inferno as an undergraduate Italian major at Stanford University, I co-taught the course “Reading Dante’s Inferno” with Norm Council from the English Department. Had I benefited from Norm’s insights into Dante back at Stanford, I might have chosen to become a Dante scholar.

What’s the most important thing today’s students need to know? That when they graduate, it will be their educational institution that grants them a degree, but it will have been the student’s responsibility to have gotten themselves an education.

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