The contractor and design team have met and surveyed the exhibit space at the U.S. Marshals Museum, and work on preparing the space for all the museum experiences will begin later this month, according to the new president and CEO of the museum.
Ben Johnson, who took over as the new president and CEO of the museum in August, said Thursday (Oct. 6) that things are on track for the museum to open in summer of 2023, “as long as there are no national or international issues” to slow down things.
Representatives from Little Rock-based CDI Contractors, the general contractors for the museum building, and from Los Angeles-based Thinkwell Group, the contractors for the exhibits (or experiences), met in September to look at the space where the experiences will be housed, Johnson said.
“Basically we have a 20,000-square-feet shell of space for the exhibits. There was discussion about what was needed” Johnson said. “Work on that space will begin later this month. The exhibits are currently being built all over the country.”
Those exhibits should be completed and ready to be installed by March or April, Johnson said. The plan is for that opening to happen in early summer.
“It’s going to be a very exciting six to nine months with all that is going on,” Johnson said.
Construction of the approximately 53,000-square-feet U.S. Marshals Museum was completed — except for exhibits — in early 2020. The facility is on the Arkansas River near downtown Fort Smith. 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.
Johnson said with a non-profit organization, fundraising never stops, and the museum is working to raise the last of funds still needed for the project.
“We are always looking for new partners,” he said, noting it should take another $3 million to $5 million to completely finish and furnish the museum. Once finished, the exhibits will be “way better than anyone can imagine,” Johnson said, of the experiences under construction.
“Being the new guy having only seen things from the outside, the last couple of months being involved in the exhibit design, I can say the experience is going to much more than most people, myself indeed, have ever experienced,” Johnson said.
Johnson, formerly of Iowa, took over as the president and CEO of the Marshals Museum Aug. 22. He replaced Patrick Weeks. Weeks, hired in June 2014 as museum president and CEO, succeeded Jim Dunn who had served as museum president since 2009. Weeks resigned as president and CEO of the U.S. Marshals Museum on March 4, following an incident in December. Weeks was arrested Dec. 21 on two felony charges of aggravated assault with a firearm. He pleaded innocent on two counts of aggravated assault at his arraignment Dec. 30 and was placed on administrative leave Dec. 23 by the museum board.
Weeks pleaded guilty to two charges of aggravated assault Sept. 21 in connection with that incident. He was placed on two suspended imposition of sentences for six years, conditioned upon good behavior and no violations of law, payment of a $2,500 fine and court costs, and no contact with the victims. Victims both approved of the agreement, said Sebastian County Prosecutor Daniel Shue.