Steven Olsen said one of several goals behind the renovations to Historic Nauvoo is to help visitors understand and appreciate the spiritual significance of the temple that was “absolutely central to the historical city."
"I suspect, that done right, this will be quite an addition to the local cultural environment and not just the Mormon religious heritage,” said Olsen, the senior curator for historic sites in the Church History Department, in a recent article by the Herald-Whig.
Structures in Nauvoo, an early historic site for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are undergoing renovations and upgrades to make the site more authentic and improve visitor experience, with projects to be completed by 2039, the bicentennial of Nauvoo’s founding, according to the article.
The first phase includes restoring three historic homes in the Temple District: the home of temple architect William Weeks; the home of Esther and William Green, who worked on temple construction, and the home of Marinda and Orson Hyde, one of the early Twelve Apostles of the church. The home of Edward and Anna Hunter, where Joseph Smith received revelation about salvation for the dead while he was in hiding from those who sought to take his life, will also be re-created.
Other phase one plans include adding a building to display original stones of the Nauvoo Temple and re-creating the West Grove, a wooded area where Joseph Smith and the early members of the church held public meetings.
"We're more mindful of participatory learning as opposed to going from room to room and hearing the missionary tell you what happened in that room,” Olsen said in the article. “We'll engage in more participatory learning activities, maybe more group activities and other kinds of things to enrich, enliven and make the experience more memorable.”
Mayor John McCarty told the Herald-Whig the changes will be beneficial to the city and enhance tourism in the area.
"The fact they're looking to enhance the experience will definitely make an improvement for Nauvoo," McCarty said. "What they're hoping for is to get new people and more people to return.”
To read the full article by the Herald-Whig about the church’s plan to improve the visitor experience in Nauvoo, click here.