Mark JohnstonA Work of Art, 540 Million Years in the Making Mark Johnston June 25 Travel Step into the Past Worlds exhibit, one of ten permanent exhibits at the Natural History Museum of Utah, and take a walk through time, exploring prehistoric periods as far back as 540 million years ago. Displaying fossils from the smallest amphibian creatures to a towering, 90-foot Barosaurs luntus — one of the biggest animals to have ever walked on Earth — much of what is on display in the Museum’s Past Worlds exhibit was discovered right here, in Utah. Utah was once home to an unimaginable array of life that existed as far back as the Cambrian period, when the first organisms with shells were appearing. Fossilized evidence of prehistoric plant and animal life from every period of existence is still being found in areas of great concentration throughout the state. Exceptional discoveries have been unearthed in the Cedar Mountain Formation, the North Horn Formation, the Kaiparowits Formation and the famous Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. That’s where researchers discovered more than 12,000 Jurassic dinosaur fossils, the densest and most mysterious concentration of them ever found. Many replicas from the quarry are now displayed in museums throughout the world, however, the original specimens remain at the Natural History Museum of Utah for visitors to admire. To fully appreciate each fossil on display, guests must realize every step in the journey that brought each one to the Museum: A life form lived and died in a period of time when Utah was once a fertile land of forests, marshes and lakes. The carcass was buried and protected from erosion for millions of years. When unearthed by natural or human causes, each piece was excavated and extracted with the utmost care. Every fossilized bone was preserved and studied before the skeleton was pieced back together like a puzzle. Finally, a paleontologist with an artist’s touch rebuilt each skeleton in a dynamic arrangement that almost brings it back to life. Consider all that and one might find a new appreciation for the Museum and its giants, carefully assembled to stand erect once again after being buried for millions of years; the Natural History Museum of Utah is as much a museum of fine art as one of science and discovery. Yet, this is a museum that encourages guests of all ages to do more than just look. While the “do-not-touch rule” still applies to the most delicate displays, there are plenty of opportunities to dig for fossils, piece together jurassic jigsaw puzzles, touch a dinosaur’s fossilized skin and even smell a dinosaur’s dinner. There’s no rule that says keep quiet and the exclamations of awe and wonder are always a welcome sound throughout the Museum. Pay a visit yourself and take your own walk through time, with children’s admission starting at just $9. If your family enjoys their visit, you can then apply the price of your tickets toward a Museum Membership and return to explore the 10 permanent exhibits and additional special exhibitions all year. There’s so much more to see and do at the Natural History Museum of Utah, and Past Worlds is just the start of it all.