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US Marshals Museum Sets July 1 Opening Date

2 min read

After more than 16 years of design, fundraising and construction, the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith announced plans to officially open its doors on July 1.

The $50 million, 53,000-SF museum on the banks of the Arkansas River will feature interactive exhibits, educational programming focused on civic literacy, and tributes to marshals killed in the line of duty.

“To say we’re excited would be a vast understatement,” Doug Babb, chair of the museum board, said in a news release. “It’s truly gratifying to see the work of so many different people who have dedicated their time and resources to this effort come to fruition. This will be a jewel for Fort Smith, the state of Arkansas and the country.”

The U.S. Marshals Service awarded the city of Fort Smith the project in 2007. Notable benefactors include the family of the late Lt. Gov. Winthrop Paul Rockefeller and Rogers developer Laurice A. Hachem, former chair of the museum foundation’s board of directors.

Construction on the museum, which is star-shaped to signify the badge worn by marshals, was completed in early 2020. The building was designed by Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects and built by CDI Contractors, both of Little Rock. 

The museum in August hired a new CEO, Ben Johnson, the former vice president of museum experiences at the Putnam Museum & Science Center in Davenport, Iowa. Johnson, a 20-year museum executive, replaced Patrick Weeks, who resigned after being charged with assault. 

Johnson told Arkansas Business that the Marshals Museum won’t provide a typical museum experience.

“This is not an objects-under-glass, reading-words-on-the-wall type of experience,” he said. “This is going to be a completely immersive interactive experience people are going to walk into and say, ‘Oh, man.’”

In a news release, he said the museum “will inspire Americans across the country — both now and for future generations — to live with the core values of the U.S. Marshals Service; justice, integrity, and service.”

“Now it’s time to welcome the world through our doors,” he said.

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