By Alicia Moulton
Students can now spend family home evening at the “Education in Zion” exhibit in the second-floor gallery of the Joseph F. Smith Building.
The JFSB was constructed specifically with the exhibit in mind. The permanent exhibition opened Aug. 18, 2008 for the beginning of Education Week and is the result of eight years of conceptualization, research, planning and construction.
Currently titled “Educating the Soul,” the exhibit celebrates the rich heritage of education and learning with divine inspiration throughout LDS church history. Ann Lambson, who has been museum curator since project director C. Terry Warner retired in November, is now working to connect the exhibit with campus programs and make it more available to the public.
One of these efforts was to extend Monday”s hours until 9 p.m. to encourage family home evening groups to come, as well as any others who are unable to visit during the 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours on other weekdays.
This weekend, the “Education in Zion” Web site opened at educationinzion.byu.edu, giving students the opportunity to access basic information and images from the exhibit.
Lambson hopes to increase the outreach of the exhibit and help all students understand its relevance.
“There is a special spirit to this exhibition,” Lambson said. “You need to come here. When you”re in this space, you feel this spirit of learning that has guided us since the restoration.”
Many students have. Last Monday, the exhibit welcomed 50 visitors from a BYU ward and 12 others. During fall semester, several classes have visited the exhibit and integrated it into their course of study. It also attracted faculty, a ward from Utah Valley University and community members.
Danielle Julander, a junior majoring in English, from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., works at the exhibition desk. She has been inspired by the stories of sacrifice and revelation that showed her what has made BYU and other education programs possible.
“It”s brought a whole new meaning to education for me,” Julander said. “It makes me want to go to school more and not take it for granted.”
“Education in Zion” displays the legacies of education pioneers in the history of BYU and the LDS church.
“We are purposely not putting people on pedestals,” Lambson said. “The stories shared are of ordinary men and women. The purpose is not to feel like ”That”s not me, I can”t do that,” but to come away inspired.”
Heather Veit, a senior from Salt Lake City majoring in teaching social science, helped with research that went into the exhibit. She said she has many favorite parts, including areas about Karl G. Maeser and other early BYU professors.
“I really like learning about the professors that showed love by the way they taught and made an effort to know the students” names,” she said.
Students may leave their bags at the desk and explore the exhibit on their own, or ask for a tour to better understand the information.
“I love it all,” said Jeri Lea Elliot, a retired elementary school teacher who volunteers at the exhibit. “The presentations, the dioramas, the way they put it together is like a puzzle. It”s very well organized.”
The gallery is divided into two sides, one showing the history of BYU and church educational programs, and the other displaying replicas of early documents and research of the role of education in the lives of the saints since Joseph Smith. Displays show that education has been a priority wherever the saints have gathered.
“It was not just a gathering of people, but a gathering of knowledge,” Lambson said.
In the center of the exhibit is a visiting area with a wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ.
“At the core of this exhibit is the belief that Jesus Christ is the source of all light and truth,” Lambson said. “One of the main themes is light and truth, and we wanted to communicate that in the space.”
The artwork, lighting and architecture magnify this theme, with a rug specially made to show the symbol of Christ as the “true vine,” and murals created specifically for the exhibit. There is an abundance of natural light in the gallery, from the middle ceiling opening to the winding staircase, and the large side window.
The exhibit displays considerable new research, mostly by students and recent graduates. In the future, the Web site will include a searchable database to allow students to access all primary documents and research from the displays, as well as additional research that could not be included in the exhibit.
Lambson hopes students will visit often to ponder the message and information in the exhibit and even to study.
“It is a full, dense exhibition,” she said. “We invite you to come again and again.”
The exhibit will also have gallery-guide brochures, more object labels and user-friendly segmentation of the seven films in the exhibit. There are also two upper areas of the gallery that in the coming years will include rotating exhibits relevant to study at BYU. Visiting hours may extend further with public interest.