Museum boss talk about Marshals’ stories, ‘Gunsmoke’ music and work of modern day Marshals

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,132 views 

A view of the U.S. Marshals Museum in downtown Fort Smith.

U.S. Marshals Museum President and CEO Patrick Weeks gave some insight into the future museum experience during a Facebook Live tour Friday (May 22).

The museum began the livecast Friday events in April to introduce more visitors to the museum during a time when museums are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The museum experience will begin when you enter the museum and end when you leave, and hopefully you will take part of it home with you,” Weeks said.

Friday’s livecast began at the entrance to the museum building taking those watching through what will eventually be a giant marshals badge into the 16,000-17,000 square feet that will house the five permanent galleries. Though the area is not complete, Weeks explained what visitors will eventually experience in the interactive environment that will make up the museum experience.

Visitors will see a recreated courthouse where the U.S. Constitution will be written before them in original script. Then they will come to a constructed outdoor space complete with rock settings and a campfire. Sitting around that campfire will be four U.S. marshals, one from each of the four periods of the marshals — colonial, frontier, Civil Rights and modern. The marshals will tell stories on each other, and as they do, the flickering campfire will project shadow images to help the stories come to life, Weeks said.

“There will be about 15-20 stories. It will be designed so that you can stop and listen to one, then move on to one of the galleries, and then stop back by and hear another,” Weeks said.

The frontier gallery will feature a saloon with bar and projected bartender who entertain with stories of the Old West. There will be card tables where guests can play digital card games with historical players and a player piano that will entertain with songs from marshals-inspired movies and television shows like “Gunsmoke” and “True Grit,” Weeks said.

Another gallery, A Changing Nation, will consist of three smaller galleries telling the stories of the Whiskey Rebellion, the Civil Rights movement and modern day Marshals.

“It will tell the stories of the marshals that we maybe do not know,” Weeks said, noting all the Marshals did during and after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists attacks that struck the nation.

The modern day Marshal gallery will give insight into what it takes to be Marshal including training, duties and how the duties have evolved.

“You will hear the voices of retired and maybe even some active marshals,” Weeks said.
Construction of the new 20,000-square-foot U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith was completed – except for exhibits – earlier this year, and museum staff has moved offices to the new facility. The museum still has an outstanding $13.5 million needed in its capital campaign, with $8 million of that for the museum’s guest experience design and construction, Weeks said.

The museum has the ongoing Pave America’s Star campaign that allows supporters to purchase a 4×8 brick for $250 or an 8×8 brick for $500 that will pave a walkway that runs along the river to the museum. The museum also has an active GoFundMe campaign that has raised $11,395.

“The building is the body of the museum. The experience is its heart. But the soul of the museum is our education programs,” Weeks said, noting the museum’s education program reaches into 500 schools in 24 states.

The hope is for the museum to open at the end of 2021, Weeks said.

“We have to wait until we have raised the funds to build the experience. We do not want to open until we have the experience worthy of doing so,” Weeks said.