In concert with the world class RootsTech 2015 conference and RootsTech Innovator Summit in Salt Lake City this week, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened the doors today to its FamilySearch Discovery Center. The new center is the first of its kind and uses the latest technology to give patrons a personally immersive experience into their family’s history—think of it as a Star Trek–meets-genealogy type of experience. The free service enables patrons to interface with large-as-life interactive displays that use patrons’ online family history at FamilySearch.org to give them unique discoveries and experiences with their family’s history. There are also fun, hands-on activities for young children that encourage family discoveries. The Discovery Center is located in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Walk-ins are welcome, but it is recommended that individuals, families, and groups reserve a time at FamilySearch.org/discoverycenter.
“We have tried to create experiences where everyone, regardless of age, can learn more about themselves and their family in new and interesting ways. And patrons who are attending as families can make fun new connections and strengthen their family bonds,” said Dennis Brimhall, chief executive officer of FamilySearch.
The concept for the Discovery Center began over two years ago when FamilySearch decided it wanted to begin redesigning patron experiences in its 4,800 family history centers worldwide. “We wanted to get families and youth more engaged and excited about their family history,” said Brimhall, noting that the Salt Lake City center will continue to serve as a primary development and testing facility to create and improve new experiences that can then be offered online at FamilySearch.org and other center locations worldwide.
Merrill White, a manager for the Discovery Center, said, “It’s fun to see youth groups and families laughing at the experiential stations and hollering across the facility for others to come see what they discovered about themselves or their family’s history. We like to see them surprised at how fun their family history can be.” White said visitors typically have no problem utilizing the entire hour they are scheduled for in the center.
At the center, patrons are issued a custom iPad that guides them through 7 stations and gives them a unique, personal experience based on family and relevant historical data found online. There are also fun “nontechnology” activities that can introduce participants to fun and interesting discoveries or connections. A very large “Jenga-like” game invites participants to share family experiences from prompts engraved on large wooden blocks. Another experience features a wraparound theater screen which helps users see how much home life has changed over the centuries and gives a glimpse of what life might have been like for their ancestors.
Two video recording studios encourage return visits to help patrons record their history individually or with other members of their family. The fun design and equipment allows patrons to duplicate the fun of favorite family memories that are spontaneously shared in nostalgic family gatherings. The recordings can then be preserved online for future generations to enjoy.
Another Discovery Center has been announced for Seattle, Washington, in the summer of 2015. The FamilySearch Discovery Center is free to the public and open Monday through Saturday. Walk-ins are welcome, but registration is recommended—particularly for family or youth groups. Visits can be scheduled at FamilySearch.org/discoverycenter.