Brigham City values its history, and as a result boasts two museums. Both are headed up by Kaia Michaelis, who serves as the Director and Curator/Historian for the Brigham City Museum of Art & History and Box Elder Museum of Natural History. The greater Brigham City area also boasts 28 sites on National Register of Historic Places.
The Museum of Art & History is located at 24 N. 300 W. in the basement of the Senior Citizen Center. The Box Elder Museum of Natural History, meanwhile, is located at 641 E. 200 N., in what was once an elementary school building.
The museums are headed up by Michaelis but she also has a couple of part time employees who help make the museums successful.
“We have patrons from all over the state visit our museums,” she said. “We have about 12,000 visitors a year between the two locations.”
Currently on exhibit at the Museum of Art & History is “All the World’s a Stage,” with some of Utah’s best known colorful and dramatic costumes from around the state. The costumes will be on display until March 16, 2019.
Audiences can see the costumes from their seat on stage, but at the Museum of Art & History, patrons can get an up close look at some elaborate costumes. Logan’s Utah Festival Opera, Cedar City’s Utah Shakespeare Festival, Salt Lake City’s Utah Opera and the Heritage Theater in Perry all have costumes on display.
Heritage Theater also donated costumes that visitors can get partially dressed in and sample materials for visitors to touch.
Michaelis, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Utah State University and a Masters in Museology /Museum Studies from University of Leicester in England, said the museum has several interactive displays.
Visiting children can get a taste of early pioneer life in Utah. There is a weaving exhibit with a small loom for weaving. There is a horse drawn wagon seat mounted on a base so people can sit down, check out what an old wagon ride felt like going down the road, and more.
Also on display is pioneer furniture and other artifacts that could be found on an early homestead.
Michaelis said she loves being in Brigham City and around early northern Utah Pioneer historical sites.
“An interesting fact about Brigham City is its cooperative system of industry spearheaded by Lorenzo Snow, an early religious leader of the pioneers,” she said. “It ended up being a model of success for the rest of the state’s predominant religion.”
In the 1870’s, there was a Brigham City Mercantile and Manufacturing Association, or Brigham City Co-op, followed by a woolen factory, planning mill, boot and shoe shop, farms, harness shop, carpentry department, butchery, saw mill, brick yards and a dairy. Some of the buildings are still there and are used to house businesses.
The museum curator said the cooperative system saw some rough financial times in the 1890’s. Grasshoppers infested the crops, the US. Government began to lay a heavy tax on them, and other burdens caused the co-op to sell their assets to businessmen in the mid-1890’s.
The museum also has a rack of historic photographs for patrons to look at. The museum has historical photographs from Compton Studio’s inventory.
“He was different than most photographers of his day who only shot in their studio,” Michaelis said. “He took a lot of pictures recording the history of the city.”
Alma W. Compton, Sr. settled in Brigham City and rented the studio of Jens C. Gasberg (Brigham City’s first photographer) before building his own studio in 1884. A.W. Compton’s Fine Art Gallery later became Compton’s Photography Studio. On January 28, 1901 the studio became the Compton’s Art & Music Company and moved to the location they would use until the studio closed in 1994. A large collection of his photographs are housed in the the USU Library’s Special Collections.