Within the first
decade of the initial Mormon settlement of Utah in 1847, plans were
discussed for the establishment of a museum. The Universal Scientific
Society was formed in 1854 to promote "a museum, library and reading
room" in Salt Lake City. In the autumn of 1855 two French scientists
spent a month in Utah. Their report commented that the "Mormons have
for some time been occupied by the idea of founding a universal museum.
They have already got together a considerable quantity of objects."
The United States government was also interested in the flora, fauna,
and geography of the new lands that were being opened up and, in fact,
had sent expeditions into the territory beginning in 1843 J.C. Frémont.
Specimens collected were deposited with the sponsoring surveys, agencies,
and museums in Washington, D.C., where many are still preserved today.
In 1869 John
W. Young, son of Brigham Young, established a museum near Temple Square as a private venture. The one-story adobe building was initially known
as the Salt Lake City Museum and Menagerie, and it included a variety
of live native animals as well as a cageful of monkeys. It ultimately
became the Deseret Museum, from which other Utah museums would spin
off or benefit from by obtaining some of its collections.