New Pioneer Exhibit Invites Visitors to Explore “Adventure of the Journey” West

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 12 July 2017

The new LDS Church History Museum exhibit “Mormon Trails: Pathways to Zion (1846 to 1890)” in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 11, 2017.  Phot by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Article Highlights

  • Visit history.lds.org/story/mormon-trails for more information.

“There is evidence that [the pioneers] did find joy in the journey as they came across. … Regardless of their circumstances, they were still able to find joy in the journey, as President [Thomas S.] Monson continues to teach us.” —Alan Johnson, director of the Church History Museum

A new exhibit at the Church History Museum invites visitors to “get a sense of the adventure of the journey” of pioneers and their trek west.

The Mormon Trails: Pathways to Zion (1846 to 1890) exhibit, which opens to the public on July 13 and is located on the second floor of the Church History Museum, takes a look at the experiences and artifacts of thousands of pioneers who traveled across the United States from the years 1846 to 1890.

“It is not just a story of the trails,” said Alan Johnson, director of the Church History Museum. “It is a story of the people who came across those trails.”

In addition to the large maps and an interactive map, the exhibit includes 50 of the museum’s most treasured pioneer artifacts and an interactive game. It also invites visitors to follow a pioneer on their journey west.

“[The exhibit] downstairs ends at 1846, and one of the biggest questions we wanted to answer is how the Saints went from the Midwest out to Utah,” said Johnson. “This helps not only tell that story, but also it introduces people to real individuals through some of the educational programming we have.”

The exhibit highlights several modes of transportation—handcart, wagon, locomotive, and ship—and provides 3D maps showing the different trails and diverse terrain, whether on land or at sea, of the early LDS Church members.

Alan Johnson, director of the Church History Museum, holds a character card in the Mormon Trails: Pathways to Zion (1846 to 1890) exhibit in the Church History Museum. Photo by Marianne Holman Prescott.

Historian Bryon Andreasen talks about the new LDS Church History Museum exhibit Mormon Trails: Pathways to Zion (1846 to 1890) in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

“We wanted it to be visual and to use maps to tell the story,” said Bryon Andreasen, a historian. “It is dramatic to see the central United States and follow the trail that way. We have color changes that show the typography of the area. … One of the maps shows the hardest part, when they hit the mountains at the end of their trip.”

But the exhibit covers more than the handcart and wagon trains traveling west. A digital, interactive map allows guests to search specific routes and times—both the year and the season—of Saints traveling west.

“In six minutes a person can see 109 trails traveled,” said Maryanne Andrus, exhibition and programs manager. Andrus began working on the exhibit in March 2016 and said it has been neat to see how the personal stories have made the exhibit come to life.

“We came up with the character cards with the idea that you could look at the person and learn their story as you look at the artifact,“ Andrus said. ”And the idea that the artifact carried those people's stories was really essential.”

The backdrop of the exhibit shows the four vehicles of travel and has hand-drawn images by Keith Beavers.

“[The exhibit] shows railroads, it shows ships, it shows handcarts, it shows covered wagons—all the different modes of transportation and all of the different trails by time, over time,” said Johnson. “It comes together ending in 1890, showing how many people came, when they came, and how they came.”

Among the artifacts featured in the exhibit is the wedding dress of handcart pioneer Maria Linford, a clock, a press, as well as a quilt and neckerchief.

An opening celebration will take place on July 13 from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. where visitors of all ages are invited to participate in pioneer games, treats, music, and re-creations of men and women of that era.

“I hope [visitors] walk away with the feeling of being connected to Church history,” said Johnson. “That’s one of our main goals, and this exhibit [highlights] people who are doing hard things. You’ll also find that … there is evidence that they did find joy in the journey as they came across. … Regardless of their circumstances, they were still able to find joy in the journey, as President [Thomas S.] Monson continues to teach us.”

For people who are unable to visit the exhibit in person, an online exhibit features a narrative of the trek west supplemented with photos of artifacts and places. Visit history.lds.org/story/mormon-trails for more information.

Exhibit programs manager Maryanne Andrews talks about the roadometer at the new LDS Church History Museum exhibit Mormon Trails: Pathways to Zion (1846 to 1890) in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Items on display in the new LDS Church History Museum exhibit Mormon Trails: Pathways to Zion (1846 to 1890) in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Items on display in the new LDS Church History Museum exhibit Mormon Trails: Pathways to Zion (1846 to 1890) in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Londyn Lecheninant tries an interactive game at the new LDS Church History Museum exhibit Mormon Trails: Pathways to Zion (1846 to 1890) in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Londyn Lecheninant shoots a photo at the new LDS Church History Museum exhibit Mormon Trails: Pathways to Zion (1846 to 1890) in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

The new LDS Church History Museum exhibit Mormon Trails: Pathways to Zion (1846 to 1890) in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

The new LDS Church History Museum exhibit Mormon Trails: Pathways to Zion (1846 to 1890) in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

A map on display in the new LDS Church History Museum exhibit Mormon Trails: Pathways to Zion (1846 to 1890) in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.