U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith Fights for Funding

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Mar. 4, 2013 12:00 am  

Clark put out a call for applications, Hayes said, and he ended up with more than a dozen cities interested in hosting the museum. It was then narrowed down to Fort Smith and Staunton, Va.

Fort Smith’s frontier history gave it an edge over Staunton.

“When Fort Smith was a bastion of the wilderness, it was often known as ‘Hell on the Border,’” Hayes said. “Numerous outlaws passed through Fort Smith on the way to Indian Territory, and once they were there, other than a federal marshal, no law enforcement could arrest them.”

Hayes said the Fort Smith community was highly supportive of the project, with the campaign motto being “Bring It Home.”

But with the city’s choice as the museum’s home came nothing else. A group of planners in Fort Smith soon formed a nonprofit and board for fundraising purposes. During the recession, the board focused more on publicity.

“I started calling the museum — I guess a couple of years ago — a museum without walls,” Hayes said. “For a lot of people, museums are really about more than just coming and looking at stuff.”

Hayes said the museum started offering public programming to help future visitors understand and experience a bit of what the museum would be when it opened.

For example, in 2010, the museum collaborated with some other organizations to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the integration of schools in New Orleans, with which the U.S. marshals were involved.

“The overall vision is that we will use the stories of the U.S. Marshals Service to give people really a different look at our nation’s history and explore American history through the lens of the Marshals Service. In the end, their role and their job are all integrally connected to the Constitution.”

Badge on the River

The design for the 20,000-SF museum was created by both Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects of Little Rock and Cambridge Seven Associates of Cambridge, Mass. The pair previously collaborated on the Heifer International Education Center in Little Rock.

Reese Rowland of Polk Stanley Wilcox said the overall design of the museum was inspired by a marshal’s badge stuck in the ground. He said it takes inspiration from a scene at the end of “High Noon” when Gary Cooper, playing Marshal Will Kane, removes his badge and flings it to the ground.



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