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Virtual Reality for Accessibility

By Expeditions, Museum | Institute - Happenings, Technology, Uncategorized

Virtual Reality grants access to places so many of us have been left out of in the past. It is one of the most powerful tools ever invented to explore and experience previously unreachable places.

Using Virtual Reality to increase accessibility

Elder Bentley’s VR experience with Indian Cave Utah

For some people with disabilities, many of the sights and wonders of Utah are inaccessible. That is changing in many regards with the advent of new and advanced virtual reality (VR) technology that can literally put people in places they could only think about going before.

One young man, Elder Gage Bentley (20), is not only enjoying these new VR experiences, but is deeply involved in their development. Elder Bentley is serving as a service missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lehi, Utah with an assignment at the Hutchings Museum Institute.

As part of his assignment, Elder Bentley works with his team to care for the animals in the Museum’s live animal room. He also works with the marketing team managing their Google ads program and website. He is also involved in helping create VR experiences to increase accessibility to those who might not normally be able to have those experiences.

Hutchings is on the leading edge of VR and other technologies to provide 3D digital preservation of historical artifacts, and VR experiences of interesting locations within the state.

Hutchings recently created a VR project inside of Indian Cave, a popular cave for visitors in the foothills of Lehi, Utah. The project created a detailed virtual experience inside the cave moving through the depths and allowing an intricate look at all the details in any direction the VR participant looks.


Due to his personal disabilities, Indian Cave was not accessible to Elder Bentley. But using the VR equipment, he was able to fully see and feel the experience of visiting and climbing through the cave. 

“I actually wondered if it would be as real as I imagined the cave being,” said Bentley. “But it was quite real. With VR there’s so much that you can do to help people who are disabled or who are unable to come to specific locations or see those parts of Utah they just normally would not be able to see.

“With Indian Cave I was able to just look at the VR and walk about in the video that is on the museum’s website and just sort of explore around. You wear the VR and with hand controls, it’s like you’re right there.”

For Elder Bentley, the VR placed him in an environment he could now explore with detail and reality that would have been impossible before.

“It was very realistic,” he said. “I thought I was actually in the cave while I had the headset on.”

According to Daniela Larsen, executive director of Hutchings Museum Institute, there are experiences most people take for granted that are not available to many people with a disability. Even museum exhibit cases can be too high to access. In the past, experiences weren’t designed for those with different abilities. But new technologies are changing that. Museums such as Hutchings are developing innovative ways to create new and accessible experiences for more people utilizing VR technology.

“I think some people have the idea that they’ll never be able to go to a particular site, and so they don’t even want to see the technology that could bring them these experiences.”

Elder  Bentley

“The technology allows us to provide an experience that’s very similar to the real thing,” said Larsen. “Additionally, some virtual reality experiences allow more than one person to participate so you can actually share the experience with your friends.”

When asked if VR would be a game-changer for those with disabilities like Elder Bentley’s Spina Bifida, his response was rather surprising indicating perhaps not all people would try out VR experiences.

“I think it depends on the person,” he said. “I think some people have the idea that they’ll never be able to go to a particular site, and so they don’t even want to see the technology that could bring them these experiences. Some people just don’t like change.”

Elder Bentley continues by pointing out that the potential for VR is “really, really amazing.”

“With VR you’re able to see a different perspective—a different point of view,” he said. “Because those places are out there. And now, we’re able to be in the cave, in the Narrows, or at Zion through the power of technology.”

Elder Bentley has no plans to stop just with Indian Cave. He has given a full list of locations he wants to visit to the Hutchings Museum Institute’s VR team.

Cory Maloy


Native Utah Lake Fish

New Live June Sucker Exhibit

By Conservation, History, Utah History, Utah Lake, Wild Life

Visit the Utah Lake Exhibit

Monday – Saturday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Adult: $5.00 / Child: $4.00

The  Live June Sucker Aquarium Exhibit

Come meet these endemic (of a plant or animal native and restricted to a certain place) fish.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the June sucker as an endangered species in 1986.  After a century of carp introduction,  pollution from human waste, industry, and dumping, these fish simply were not going to survive without human intervention.

June Suckers are a large part of the diet of many of the birds that use Utah Lake shores, Bird Island, and the surrounding fields as a main food source. The declining population of June Suckers directly endangers these birds and their offspring.

Common Name: June Sucker      Scientific Name:Chasmistes liorus



Over 1000 years ago, Native Fremont people live near the lake and depend on its native fish for food. In 1776, Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante arrives to the valley, meets the local Ute tribe, and is considered to be the first European to see the lake.

When European settlers began arriving in 1847, Native Americans showed them how to catch, dry, and survive on the fish of Utah Lake.  While it saved them from starving, it soon led to overfishing and the depletion of June Suckers in Utah Lake.






Perry Murdock of the Timpanogas Tribe Teaches Native American Fish Drying Techniques
Daniela Larsen and Jake Benson learn how to dry fish

Utah Lake was home to millions of June Suckers along with 12 other fish species. Of those 13 species, only June sucker and Utah sucker still inhabit the lake, now alongside several non-native species.

Native Utah Lake Fish

Read More on Nature Serve Explorer

NatureServe Explorer is the largest online encyclopedia of biodiversity in North America. Hosted by NatureServe, it is a valuable, cost-free tool made possible through the dedication and hard work of scientists, programmers, nature enthusiasts.

June Sucker Documented distribution
Geneva Steel

What a pouring of steel can tell us about Utah during World War II

By History, Military, Rocks and Minerals, Utah History, Utah Lake

This piece of steel, approximately 3 feet in length, looks hardly significant. It is rough and bubbly and served no unique purpose. Yet this piece of steel has been on display for years at the Hutchings Museum because of the notable story which it tells. This bar of steel was the first poured at Geneva Steel in 1944. Though the steel plant is no longer in operation it holds a significant part in Utah history.

Geneva Steel

Geneva Steel was built to increase the steel production for America during World War II. In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had proposed opening a steel plant in Utah because of the state’s abundance in iron and other natural resources and because of its inland position where it would have less of a threat of being bombed. The idea was shelved after a couple of months due to the high cost it would take to build and operate the steel plant. In 1941, the threat of war loomed over America. If America were to enter the war, it would need to produce a lot more steel. Plans for the steel plant were approved and construction started in November of 1941, a month before Pearl Harbor and America’s official entry into World War II. Geneva was one of the largest inland government projects during the war. In April of 1944, Geneva shipped its first order which consisted of over 600 tons of steel plate.

The steel plant offered many new jobs to the people of Utah, but because many men were off fighting in the war, some positions considered to be a “man’s job” were filled by women. By the end of the war, more than 25% of the workers at Geneva Steel were women. The government also asked women to volunteer to be lookouts at the top of the Veterans Memorial Building (now the Hutchings Museum) for enemy planes coming to bomb the steel plant. The Memorial building at the time was one of the tallest in Utah Valley and had a direct view of the steel plant. When the war ended some women left their jobs and went back home, but others remained and continued working at the steel plant.





To show its appreciation of Geneva Steel and all the workers who served at the steel plant, The government named several Liberty Ships in honor of Utah, including The USS Joseph Smith, USS Brigham Young, USS Provo, and the USS Peter Skene Ogden.

See Geneva Steels’ first pour. On display in the Rock and Mineral Room at the Hutchings Museum.

Geneva Steel Utah Lake Clean Up

Geneva Steel Dumped waste into Utah Lake for years. Learn about the clean-up efforts here.

Our Part in Making History

By Museum | Institute - Happenings

Over the past few months, we’ve been working with Holdman Studio at Thanksgiving Point. While there, we’ve been placing copper along the edges of class pieces and occasionally grinding down glass. This has been a great opportunity to see how glass is made, the process to get it together in one piece and where it will be placed.

Lining copper over each class was very tedious work. Getting it even, no ripped corners, edges flatten, not too thick – sometimes we had to redo them numerous times! All pieces are different sizes, giving a variety to see and work with.

As our volunteers have come to understand the hard work and precision of stained glass, we took a field trip to UVU too see the Roots of Knowledge! As we broke into groups and took our time seeing each detail, hidden stories and