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A look back at Utah’s past with the UMFA and the Marriott Library

Three new digital exhibitions use art and archival objects to reveal new insights into our region’s cultural, environmental and political history.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) and the J. Willard Marriott Library have launched three new digital exhibitions that use art and archival objects to reveal new insights into our region’s cultural, environmental and political history.

The exhibitions are part of “Landscape, Land Art and the American West,” a four-year joint research and scholarly engagement initiative between the UMFA and the Marriott Library, generously funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and matching funds from the University of Utah’s Office of Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Colleges of Humanities, Mines and Earth Sciences, Fine Arts and Health.

In addition to supporting faculty scholarship and integrating museum and library digital resources, the recently completed grant enabled UMFA and Marriott Library staff to collaborate on shared exhibitions and programming. Focusing primarily on Utah and the American West, these three exhibitions emphasize the ongoing relevance of the UMFA’s and Marriott’s collections in scholarly and creative endeavors and illustrate the synergetic possibilities that unfold when museum and library objects are used in tandem.

“It is beneficial to the campus and community to have these wonderful collections made so easily accessible via a digital medium,” said Alberta Comer, dean and director of Marriott Library. “Collaborations between the museum and library have resulted in truly rich and genuine content for all to enjoy.”

UMFA executive director Gretchen Dietrich said, “We’re excited about the possibilities this collaboration has created for the development and transfer of new knowledge among scholars, students and the general public.”

Visitors from the University of Utah and beyond are invited to explore these rich digital resources, use them to support teaching and learning, and share them with others:

Time Trip: Utah, Spiral Jetty, and Robert Smithson in the 1970s” offers visitors a journey to Utah, circa 1970. The exhibition engages with UMFA and Marriott Library Special Collections to explore contemporary events in the Salt Lake Valley and the University of Utah around the period when artist Robert Smithson completed “Spiral Jetty,” a work of land art that transformed the topography of a remote spot along Great Salt Lake’s north shore and revolutionized contemporary art worldwide.

Mining the West: Primary Elements” integrates objects from the UMFA and Marriott Library Special Collections to illustrate the technological, economic, social and environmental impacts of mining on the American West. Contributions from artists, scientists, educators and more demonstrate a diversity of perspectives on this topic.

Utah Women Working for Better Days!” revisits the exhibition of the same name on view in the UMFA’s ACME Lab May–December 2020. Curated collaboratively with the nonprofit Better Days 2020, the exhibition coincided with the 150th anniversary of Utah as the first place where women voted in the modern United States and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The exhibition draws on material from Marriott Library Special Collections and the work of artist Brooke Smart to inspire visitors to contemplate the many ways that women—both past and present—advocate for social change.