Editor’s note: There are updates throughout the story.
Selecting an architectural and design plan and forming a foundation board were two important steps taken Friday (Jan. 23) by the board of directors of the U.S. Marshals Museum toward the funding and construction of a national museum on the riverfront in downtown Fort Smith.
The U.S. Marshals Service in January 2007 selected Fort Smith as the site of the new national museum. Cost estimates to construct the museum range from $25 million to $40 million. There are no set time frames for the construction and opening of the museum.
The partnership of Little Rock-based Polk Stanley Architects and Cambridge, Mass.-based Cambridge Seven Associates were recommended by the Architectural Design and Construction Committee of the museum board to plan and design the building. The museum board approved the recommendation.
Reese Rowland, a native of Paris, Ark., and architect with Polk Stanley, said the goal of the design is to connect Garrison Avenue with the riverfront so “the museum experience begins” on Garrison Avenue and draws people to the museum.
“What we create here will create a ripple effect through downtown Fort Smith,” said Joe Stanley, with Polk Stanley.
Christopher Chadbourne and Rebecca Looney (pictured below), with Boston-based Christopher Chadbourne & Associates, noted during a 35-40 minute presentation to the board that the museum had to serve the dual purpose of being a “regional resource for the community” and a “destination attraction” that draws a national audience. They said it is “critical” for the community to feel like it has “ownership” and pride in the final product.
Chadbourne — whose firm is responsible for exhibit design — said the museum must be constructed so that it is one of the top three regional museums, with the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock and the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville being the other two competitors.
He also said the museum needs a “powerful” Web site to support it.
“A lot of people these days start the trip planning by going to the Web,” he said.
Looney said the exhibits will cover the history of the Marshals Service but that also focuses on the accomplishments and sacrifices of Marshals. Looney said the historical review would be comprehensive, from the formation in 1789, through the slave trade, Civil War, world wars, civil rights conflicts and the modern day efforts fighting terrorism.
There is planned an exhibit that also shows the asset forfeiture work of the Marshals. Chadbourne said he was surprised to learn the Marshals have held assets including high-end Maserati cars to strip clubs.
“We’ll censor the strip clubs,” Chadbourne joked.
Looney said the exhibits also would include a Hall of Honor to be treated as a “sacred space” recognizing the Marshals who died in the line of duty.
Jim Hackney, counsel with Alexander Haas, the Atlanta-based legal firm advising the board on fundraising, said “it’s now time” to begin the fundraising effort.
He said successful capital campaigns must have a “great case, terrific leadership” and a “solid plan.” He said the agreement with the Marshals Service to provide artifacts, the donation by the Robert Westphal family of the riverfront property and the $2 million in “seed money” from Arkansas make the “great case” needed to begin raising money.
Pressley Peters, who will work with Hackney to develop the capital campaign message, explained the “Make History” theme of the campaign. She said potential donors will be told of the historic content and stories captured by the museum, and then asked to help make the museum a reality. “We’re asking donors to join us and ‘Make History,’” she said.
The Marshals Museum board also approved the creation of a foundation board that will have the responsibility of managing the fundraising campaign.
Named to the foundation board were:
Robin Westphal Clegg, Robert Westphal & Co.
Susan Grobmyer, Bank of the Ozarks
Chester Koprovic, Kopco Inc,
Chuck Kupferer, Corrections Corp. of America
Marvin Lutes, U.S. Marshals Association
Philip Merry, Bowen Miclette Britt & Merry
Ben Reyna, U.S. Marshals Service
Mark Rumsey, Zero Mountain Corp.
Howard Safir, SafirRossetti
Sam T. Sicard, First National Bank of Fort Smith
John Taylor, Sterne Agee & Leach
Dick Trammel, Arvest Bank and Arkansas Highway Commissioner
Richard Udouj, Richard Udouj Consulting
Bennie Westphal, Robert Westphal & Co.
John Womack, Arvest Bank
Robert A. Young III, Arkansas Best Corp.
Museum Project Director Sandy Sanders addresses the museum board.