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New home proposed for $100 million in Utah artifacts

February 25, 2018

This Feb. 15, 2018, photo shows a number of artifacts, including a Civil War uniform, in the basement of the Rio Grande Depot, home of the Utah state historical offices in Salt Lake City. (Jeremy Harmon/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s first state flag and an 1843 wedding dress from one of the state’s first female pioneers are among more than $100 million worth of artifacts that are at risk of being destroyed due to poor storage conditions in the basement of Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande Depot, state historians say.

The artifacts are crowded onto shelves in rooms without climate control or earthquake protection inside the basement under the state history offices, The Salt Lake Tribune reported .

According to historians, some of the items have already been ruined and the others are in peril, including the 1.5 million historic photos archived in the building.

“There’s not a staff person here that hasn’t gone home and had a bad dream about what could happen,” said Doug Misner, collections manager for the Utah Division of State History.

The state division has proposed constructing an $18 million collections building, which would house the items in high-density shelving and in low-impact lighting. The building would be across the street from the depot, and would include a research room and a loading area for traveling exhibits.

The Legislature is considering budgeting $1.5 million for planning and designing the building.

Warm temperatures can be damaging to historical material, and staff has moved freezers into a backroom to store sensitive photo negatives. The basement fluctuates between 70 and 80 degrees, said Josh Loftin, a division spokesman.

In the manuscripts room, Coy said it stays warm as steam pipes run through. Cardboard boxes of letters, journals and business records are stacked unprotected nearly to the ceiling.

“These are irreplaceable,” Coy said, opening a folder of letters sent to a Utah family from a son on the Western Front during World War I. “You can’t get another letter from (Pvt. George) Grimshaw to his parents.”

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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