Opened on November 19, 2011, the museum is located in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountain Range overlooking Salt Lake City. The copper-covered Rio Tinto Center is built on a 17-acre site and terraced along the hillside to adhere to the landscape contours, allowing it to blend with the red rock environment.
The museum is home to a growing collection of 1.2 million specimens and objects focused on earth sciences, biology and anthropology of the Great Basin Region and Colorado Plateau.
For its extensive exhibits, the museum provides 51,000 square feet of galleries and spaces. Exhibits revolve on themes such as Sky, Life, Land, Native Voices (focusing on the Utah Indian community), First Peoples (Great Basin's prehistoric peoples), Gems and Minerals, Great Salt Lake, Past Worlds (Utah's ancient environments) and Utah Futures (emphasizing sustainable living in Utah). Young visitors have a hands-on discovery zone called Our Backyard. The center also has a section designated for laboratories, storage rooms and administration, separated from the exhibits area via the main lobby called the Canyon.
Before moving to the new 163,000 square foot facility, the Natural History Museum of Utah was previously located in the former George Thomas Library. The museum was originally named the Utah Museum of Natural History when it was established in 1963.
Visitors can take home souvenirs from the Museum store or enjoy views of Salt Lake Valley while relaxing in the Museum Cafe. Nature and outdoor enthusiasts can explore the Bonneville Shoreline Trail around the museum by bike or foot.