LDS Family History Library opens new center for interactive experiences

Saturday , February 11, 2017 - 4:45 AM

Standard-Examiner Staff

SALT LAKE CITY —The Family History Library, at 35 N West Temple in Salt Lake City, has opened a new center for interactive discovery experiences.

The center uses technology to introduce visitors to their family trees. 

“This multi-million-dollar project enables personalized interactive exhibits to connect families with their ancestors,” said Elder Dale G. Renlund of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He spoke during a grand opening event.

“Whether one believes in God or not, these things ground us and help us know who we are,” he said.

The new, free attraction is 10,139 square feet on the library’s main floor.

Renlund said the new center is the first major change in the interior appearance of the Family History Library in decades.

“This gives them an opportunity to begin to see that we can connect them to their ancestors, and not only by name, but by helping them discover who these folks were, the time they lived and what made them think, believe, act the way they did,” Elder Bradley D. Foster said. Foster is executive director of the LDS Church’s Family History Department and board chairman of FamilySearch International.

RELATED: New Layton FamilySearch offers tech-savvy ways to learn more about ancestors

Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world visit the Family History Library every year, according to a news release from the church. The new facility will accommodate large and diverse groups.

“Whether you're just curious or you're an expert genealogist, these heartfelt discovery experiences are the catalyst to keep you moving,” said Stephen Rockwood, managing director of the Church’s Family History Department and the CEO of FamilySearch International.

"We are part of a great work to help families gather families,” Joy Jones, Primary general president, said. “We must be the connection between the generations before us and the generations after.”

Jones suggested bringing family members to the center would build family unity and “increase their ability to face challenges more successfully.”

When entering the discovery experiences, guests receive a custom iPad to log in to their free FamilySearch account. Visitors can dock the tablet with various stations throughout the facility for an interactive experience with their FamilySearch.org family tree.

For the best experience, guests are asked to create a free online account and build their family tree before arriving at the attraction, the news release said. A guest account option is available for visitors.

“Usually research involves looking at microfilms and books and records,” said Tamra Stansfield, manager of the Family History Library. “This takes what's already in your information in Family Tree and makes it interactive and fun, and it tells stories and experiences.”

Stansfield said the library’s other four floors will continue to offer billions of historical records and resources and personal assistance from genealogical specialists.

On the main floor, youth may enjoy the life-sized, touch-screen computer monitors for some of the interactive stations, according to the news release. At a green screen, guests may choose from a variety of themed backgrounds to create a lasting photo memory of their visit to the discovery experiences. In addition, there is an enclosed play space for parents with small children.

“As you look around, you're going to see that this truly was designed so families can get together and gather their own families,” Rockwood said. “I just feel sorry for the parents when they tell their kids it's time to leave.”

The attraction is open Monday through Saturday. Groups with more than 20 people may book visits at FamilySearch.org/Discovery.

The FamilySearch Center and Discovery Center located in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City will remain open, according to the release.

FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by the LDS Church.

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