The Fort Smith-based U.S. Marshals Museum has received an influx of contributions in the wake of a $5 million matching gift that was announced over the summer, meaning production of the museum experience could start soon and the museum could open within a year.
Museum officials announced July 22 it had received an anonymous $5-million matching gift, bringing it one step closer to reaching its final capital campaign goal of $12.5 million. At that time, the museum – located near the Arkansas River in downtown Fort Smith – had raised nearly $38.8 million for the USMM building, campus, and Hall of Honor.
“This gift has not only provided much-needed funds, but it’s also brought renewed vigor,” said Anthony Meyer, chief development officer and United States Marshals Museum Foundation president. “We hope even more supporters will join us in bringing this project over the finish line.”
Though the total needed to complete the museum’s capital campaign is $12.5 million, then foundation president Alice Alt said at the first of the year they only needed $8 million to start construction of the experience inside the Museum (galleries, interactives and exhibits), which will include five immersive galleries highlighting the ever-evolving role the U.S. Marshals Service played in upholding the rule of law.
“In just a few short months, we have raised approximately $1 million toward the match—and counting,” said Patrick Weeks, museum president and CEO. “Additional donations, both big and small, will allow us to provide visitors with a stronger understanding of how the U.S. Marshals Service, driven by justice, integrity and service, have protected and defended our nation.”
“Since (2012), it has grown into a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity,” the website states.
Weeks said that since Jan. 1, the foundation has raised $8.75 million.
“Thanks to continued donor support, including the recent $5-million matching gift, production (of the experience) will be underway soon,” Weeks said Nov. 3.
If the museum matches all the funds needed for the grant, it will secure close to the total funds needed for the capital campaign and surpass the $8 million needed to build galleries and provide visitors with a transformative storytelling experience, a news release said when the matching gift was announced in July.
“The finish line is in sight,” said Laurice Hachem, board chair of the United States Marshals Museum Foundation, “These funds will allow us to fully share the deep and rich story of the U.S. Marshals Service.”
Foundation staff hope donors will take advantage of Giving Tuesday to help the museum take another step closer to opening. Giving Tuesday refers to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a movement created in 2012 as a time to encourage people to do good, according to the givingtuesday.org website. The movement has created an international day of charitable giving at the beginning of the Christmas holiday season.
Construction of the approximately 53,000 square feet U.S. Marshals Museum was completed – except for exhibits – in early 2020 with museum staff moving its offices to the new facility shortly after construction was completed. The facility was dedicated on September 24, 2019, the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service.
The facility’s star-shaped design represents the badge worn by United States marshals. Once complete, guests will have the opportunity to tour the building’s five immersive galleries to learn about the critical, ever-evolving role of the U.S. Marshals Service. They will also have the opportunity to pay tribute to the more than 350 marshals killed in the line of duty in the Samuel M. Sicard Hall of Honor and gain a stronger understanding of the Constitution, the rule of law and civic literacy in the National Learning Center.
Weeks said the museum is tentatively set to open in fall 2022.
“But the availability of materials could impact our timeline, particularly during COVID-19,” Weeks said.
In January 2007, the U.S. Marshals Service selected Fort Smith as the site for the national museum. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in September 2015, and museum officials initially hoped to have the facility open by late 2017.