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Deseret Museum records, 1891-1903

 Series — Box: 24b, Folder: 14a-14b
Identifier: MSS 229 Series 15

Scope and Contents

Contains an inventory of items owned by the Deseret Museum. The inventory was taken by J. Reuben Clark under the direction of museum curator, James E. Talmage between 1891 and 1903.


  • 1891-1903


Conditions Governing Access

Original conditional restricted. Use photocopy.

Conditions Governing Use

The literary rights to the Talmage collection rest with the Harold B. Lee Library and the Talmage family. Permission to publish material from the James E. Talmage collection must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services at

Administrative History

The Deseret Museum (1869-1918) was a museum dedicated to educating the people of Utah and displaying local scientific and historical treasures.

The Deseret Museum was conceived by John W. Young and Guglielmo Giosue Rosetti Sangiovanni in the fall of 1869 and was founded on the idea of showcasing the natural and historical wonders of Utah. The museum opened its doors in December of that year with Young providing the financial capital and Sangiovanni serving as curator. Known as the Home Museum, the Salt Lake Museum, or more commonly the Deseret Museum, it quickly acquired a wide range of animal, fossil, and geological specimens, as well as a large number of historical artifacts. When Sangiovanni left the museum after a disagreement with Young in 1871, Joseph L. Barfoot, who had previously been hired to scientifically catalog the growing collection, became the new curator and served in that capacity until his death in 1882.

Following Barfoot’s death, the museum struggled to survive for nearly a decade. In 1878, Young, unable to provide the financial support the growing institution needed, had transferred ownership of the museum to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, in 1885, a group of concerned citizens founded the Salt Lake Literary and Scientific Association and purchased the museum. George Reynolds and Don Carlos Young helped keep the institution limping along until December 1890 when the Association appointed James E. Talmage as director and curator of the museum. Talmage, with the assistance of a young J. Reuben Clark, then working his way through college, brought the museum to the peak of its influence and standing in the last decade of the nineteenth-century. Lacking the resources to maintain the museum, the Salt Lake Literary and Scientific Association transferred ownership of the museum back to the Church in 1899.

Throughout its history, the Deseret Museum moved a number of times to accommodate growing collections or find better conditions. In 1903 the museum was forced from its current home and was unable to find a suitable replacement. The collections were stored in the Salt Lake Temple until a new building was constructed just south of Temple Square in 1911. Later that year, after Talmage became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, he was relieved of his curatorial duties. His son Sterling B. Talmage became the new curator, serving under James E. Talmage’s direction. In 1918, the Deseret Museum’s chronic lack of space led to its dissolution. Scientific specimens were transferred to the LDS University, while historical artifacts were divided up between a new LDS Church Museum on Temple Square and the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.

Biographical History

James E. Talmage (1862-1933) was an ecclesiastical leader, a geology professor, and an author in Utah. James Edward Talmage was born September 21, 1862 in Hungerford, England. Talmage received a diploma from the Brigham Young Academy Scientific Department in 1881, and was subsequently hired as a teacher at the academy. He then attended Lehigh University (1882-83), Johns Hopkins University (1883-1884), and then resumed teaching at Brigham Young Academy. While teaching at BYA, Talmage served as a member of the Provo City council and later as a justice of the peace. On June 14, 1888, Talmage married Merry May Booth, commonly called May. James E. Talmage and May Talmage had eight children together. Talmage was president of the Latter-day Saints' University until 1894 when he became president of the University of Utah. He held that position until 1897. In 1896, Talmage attended Illinois Wesleyan University. Being involved in several academic societies, in 1897 Elder Talmage went to a geographical meeting in Russia under the auspices of the Scottish Geographical Society and traveled on a geological expedition that crossed the Ural Mountains. The same year, he accepted a position as a professor of geology at the University of Utah, teaching there until 1907. In 1904, Talmage went to Washington D.C. to testify in the Smoot Hearings. From 1907 to 1911, Talmage worked as a full time geological consultant. During this time, while Talmage was serving as the director of the Deseret Museum, he went to Detroit, Michigan to participate in diggings connected with the Scotford-Soper-Savage relics craze (1909). Talmage was ordained an Apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1911 and served in that capacity until his death in 1933. He also served as President of the European Mission of the Church from 1924 to 1928. In addition, he was the author of several books about his religion, including "Jesus the Christ," "The House of the Lord," "The Articles of Faith," and "The Great Apostasy." James E. Talmage died on July 27, 1933 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Biographical History

Joshua Reuben Clark, Jr. (1901-1961) was a Mormon attorney, diplomat, and ecclesiastical leader in Utah.

Joshua Reuben Clark, Jr. was born September 1, 1901 in Grantsville, Utah. He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Utah and a law degree from Columbia University. He served as Under Secretary of state to President Calvin Coolidge in 1928 and as ambassador to Mexico from 1930–1933. In 1933 Clark was asked to serve as the second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to President Heber J. Grant, later becoming first counselor in 1934. After Grant's death in 1945, he remained as first counselor in the First Presidency under George Albert Smith. When Smith died in 1951, he was called by David O. McKay as second counselor in the First Presidency, returning to the position of first counselor in 1959. He remained in this role until his death on October 6, 1961 in Salt Lake City, Utah.


2 folders

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

A more detailed finding aid is available in print in the repository.

Other Finding Aids

File-level inventory available online.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital copy of the first twelve volumes (1879-1911) available online. Unedited transcriptions of all thirty volumes of available in boxes 26-33. Microfilm copy of journals also available.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States