When the statue of TV inventor Philo T. Farnsworth is booted from its place in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., later this year, it will be moved to a new home at Utah Valley University, a state committee announced Tuesday.
The Utah Legislature voted in 2018 to replace Farnsworth’s likeness with a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon — the first female state senator in Utah and the nation — in the U.S. Capitol, where two figures of historic significance represent each state. The state’s other statue is of Mormon pioneer leader Brigham Young.
While the swap has largely been seen as a way to honor women’s contribution’s to Utah history, the committee wanted to ensure Farnsworth’s contributions to history weren’t forgotten as a result, said Erin Wynn, executive director of the nonprofit tasked with overseeing the creation and placement of Cannon’s statue and finding a new home for Farnsworth’s.
“What we didn’t want was Philo to no longer be publicly accessible,” she said in an interview. “We wanted to make sure it was [put in] a place where the public could interact with him, in a building where they had the means to take care of it and make sure Philo was around for decades to come.”
The Martha Hughes Cannon Statue Oversight Committee received five proposals from Farnsworth fans for new locations for the statue. The group evaluated each based on the applicant’s connection to the inventor, ability to maintain and care for the statue, the installation location, and the number of visitors the statue would receive at its new location.
Farnsworth was born and raised in Beaver, Utah, and attended Brigham Young University. Though he created a number of inventions, and his corporation at one time held more than 150 patents, he is best known for the technology that made television possible.
Utah Valley University’s application, submitted by the school’s Digital Media Department, emphasized its connections to Farnsworth’s life experiences and the potential for his statue to reach a broad audience of students and visitors.
The school’s Digital Media Department is the country’s only film and television program housed in a College of Engineering, the application states, noting that Farnsworth was a “largely self-taught engineer.”
And, like many of the school’s first generation, non-traditional and rural students, “he didn’t have obvious opportunities to pursue higher education and the success he had was largely forged by his own will,” the proposal adds.
Utah Valley University President Astrid Tuminez said in a statement Tuesday that it was an “honor” to have Farnsworth’s statue housed at the school.
“He exhibited a spirit of curiosity, a passion for knowledge, and an insatiable desire to discover, explore, and make the world a better place through his inventions,” she said. “His 160 patents contributed to life-changing and life-saving technology that we take for granted today. We hope his likeness will inspire our students and faculty to open their minds to new possibilities and follow their dreams.”
Utah Valley University plans to host a public event with the arrival of the statue and will house it initially in its Roots of Knowledge Stained Glass gallery, with potential plans to move it to a new College of Engineering and Technology building underway or a Digital Media building that’s been discussed.
Among the other applications was one from the city of Beaver, where Farnsworth was born in a log cabin in 1906. The city already has a park dedicated to Farnsworth and has a replica of his D.C. statue next to Beaver County’s old courthouse but wanted to bring his D.C. statue there to acknowledge his roots.
The city of Lehi also put in an proposal, pointing to the city’s commitment to technological innovation. So did Rigby, Idaho, where Farnsworth spent much of his life and is thought to have developed the concept for the television; there’s already an elementary school, high school and city park named for him, as well as a museum dedicated to the inventor.