News Release

Church Opens First Interactive Family Discovery Centre in Salt Lake City

Family history experts are making learning about our ancestors more fun for families, especially youth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened its first Family Discovery Centre on Temple Square on February 11, 2015. The opening coincides with RootsTech 2015, a family history and technology conference that runs February 12–14 at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. The centre, located in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, provides visitors a unique and highly interactive experience coupling their family history on with the latest computer technology and mobile devices.


“This is an exciting time because it represents a culmination of a lot of work,” said Elder Allan F. Packer of the First Quorum of the Seventy and executive director of the Family History Department during the grand opening of the discovery centre.

The cast of the television show Studio C attended the opening of the discovery centre. “I think it’s extremely well done,” said cast member Matt Meese. “It’s very fun, a very good layout, a lot of things to do. I’m looking forward to exploring it some more. It’s different than looking at a census record. It’s just a little bit more engaging.”

“The whole entire experience has been outstanding,” said 16-year-old Andrew Armstrong of Draper, Utah. “A lot of the time when people think of family history you think of sitting at a computer and a more dull experience. The iPads with the new screens they have in there and the way they have it set up is a lot more interactive and catches your attention.”

“It’s our prototype centre,” said Merrill White, manager of the Family Discovery Centre. “We want the whole family to come experience it.”

White said the concept of the discovery centre began a couple of years ago when FamilySearch decided it wanted to begin offering a new type of patron experience in its 4,800 family history centres worldwide. “We went to the drawing board and tried to create a discovery-type experience for youth and for the entire family so that everyone would feel welcome and everyone could come experience their family history in new and engaging ways,” he added.

Construction on the facility was completed in May 2014. Since that time, thousands of guests have been testing out the new experiences, which include exploring their family tree on a giant virtual map. There are plans to open more discovery centres in the coming years.

Visitors to the centre use a customized iPad to interface with large-as-life interactive displays at seven stations to learn about themselves and where their family came from, how they lived and even how they may have dressed on special occasions. “It is supposed to be fun! We even have them take a selfie to begin with because it’s about them and then connecting with their heritage,” said White. Guests can also record a video about themselves or a family member.

White said visiting the discovery centre is a social experience. “Children, as they take a picture, they want Mom and Dad or brother and sister to come see it because they know they’re making a place [for] themselves in history.”

The new discovery centre in Salt Lake City will continue to serve as a primary development and testing facility to create and improve new experiences that can be offered online and in other family history centres throughout the world. Another discovery centre is expected to open in Seattle, Washington, near the Seattle Washington Temple in the summer.

Visits to the Family Discovery Centre last about an hour and are free to the public. The centre is open Monday through Saturday. Walk-ins are welcome, but online registration is recommended, especially for family or youth groups.
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources and services to learn more about their family history.


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