SALT LAKE CITY — Celebrating families across the generations, FamilySearch on Wednesday officially opened its new Family Discovery Center in the Joseph Smith Building.
The opening coincides with the world’s largest genealogical conference — RootsTech, sponsored by FamilySearch — that begins Thursday at the Salt Palace.
Beware, the Family Discovery Center is not your mother’s genealogy center. Wednesday’s event was run by teenage youth hosts who showed attendees at a special gathering just what technology mingled with genealogy can do to make your own story a living museum.
“We are creating the Museum of Me,” said Dennis Brimhall, executive director of FamilySearch. The center is completely run by technology and advanced research data. Each person attending the center is given a programmed iPad and is invited to experience seven exhibits that feature a number of activities.
The first activity requires you to take a selfie photo. That will begin your story. Each location will add to that story with information about you, your world around you, your name and then information about your ancestors. You can tell your family story, your own story, and you can even have a virtual experience wearing the clothes of any era you want to experience from your ancestor’s lives.
After you have finished the exhibits, your host will take the information collected on the iPad and will send it to your home email address. You can visit again and again to continue to add to your Museum of Me throughout the years.
“We believe that families can be together forever, and that leads us to the start of the Discovery Center,” said Elder Allen Packer of the Quorum of the Seventy and director of family history for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said the idea is to find ourselves, prepare names for use in LDS temple work, and then teach others the same thing. The Family Discovery Center is a fun way to do that. The target market is obviously youth, but old folks are having just as much fun using the easy technology.
Packer noted the center information changes daily. The LDS Church continues to gather images and is recording them at a staggering 1.1 million a day. Images of ancestors you may have seen today could be added to tomorrow, or new ones may come online.
“We make things that work for youth and everybody will come,” said Scott Stout, the center’s director. “We created this as a lab and have been testing it since last summer. We have had thousands of test subjects. This will always be our test lab.” Stout said there is also a smaller-scaled version of the center in Seattle, and the next center will be located at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. Additional areas around the world are being looked at for future centers.
“Seeing all this and finding who you’re related to is exciting,” said Jacob, a 14-year-old youth host. “When I went through my tree I found out I was related to royalty. I know who I am. “When I walked in here I said wow. It’s hard to get bored.”
The center is free, but is currently taking reservations because of demand. To make reservations visit https://familysearch.org/discoverycenter.