Herb Scribner@HerbScribner | Published: June 7, 2018 11:39 am
SALT LAKE CITY — On Thursday morning, award-winning folk artist Eric Dowdle, former federal special agent and author Tim Ballardand nationally recognized composer Paul Cardall were all at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to announce Utah's new George Washington Museum of American History.
The nonprofit initiative will be the largest American history museum west of the Mississippi. The 18-acre location — currently projected to be in Highland along state Route 92 in north Utah County, museum officials told the Deseret News — will be a replica of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Virginia, estate.
The site will also house "two large museum buildings, a working farm, barns, retail cottages, greenhouse, gardens, office and ticketing buildings, and on-site parking facilities," according to the museum's website.
Museum officials hope to have the project operational by July 4, 2026 — the 250th anniversary of the birth of the United States.
In 2016, then-President Barack Obama created a commission to oversee celebrations of the country's 250th anniversary in 2026, charging each of the 50 states to find ways to mark the occasion. Utah is the first state to follow through on the initiative.
“Utah wanted to do something special for 2026 because President Obama as an initiative asked every state to do something to unite the States,” Cardall said.
Utah Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, former Salt Lake Chamber President Lane Beattie, former state Sen. Alvin Jackson and several other Utahns were on hand for the announcement in Washington D.C.
More than just a museum, officials also plan to put together a touring exhibition that will visit all 50 states leading up to July 4, 2026.
“We’re inviting the country to come to Utah and … the museum, but also engage in their own states,” said Dowdle, who is known for his folk art jigsaw puzzles. Dowdle is the museum's founder and Chairman of the Board and invited both Ballard and Cardall to be involved in the project.
“We believe the future will bring more and more people to our state,” Dowdle said. “We believe Utah can act as a hub for a Reader’s Digest version of the Smithsonian.”
A team of artists, historians and musicians will collaborate on the project, which will include a multimedia exhibition that displays the first 250 years of American history. Ballard, Dowdle and Cardall will contribute in unique ways.