U.S. Marshals Museum receives Heritage grant; museum $3.5 million from campaign goal

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 911 views 

The U.S. Marshals Museum (USMM) Foundation announced Thursday (Feb. 23) that the museum received an $800,000 Division of Arkansas Heritage Cultural Institutions Trust Fund award.

The prestigious awards were announced Feb. 22 at the division’s headquarters in Little Rock.

“We are very excited and honored to receive this grant award,” said Susan Neyman, president of the USMM Foundation. “It’s further confirmation of the Museum’s dedication and focus as we quickly move towards our anticipated opening this summer. That event will culminate years of hard work and commitment from the people of Fort Smith and Arkansas.”

The grant request was written to help pay for the creation and installation of the interactive, immersive museum experience depicting the more than 230-year history of the U.S. Marshals Service, Neyman said, adding that work is underway on this nearly 20,000-square-feet gallery space.

Those eligible to receive Arkansas Cultural Institutions Trust Fund dollars are Arkansas nonprofit cultural institutions open to the public or in the process of opening a new or modified facility with plans for a major capital expenditure of $7 million or more. Specifically, the USMM was recognized for its “Creation and Installation of Interactive and Immersive History Exhibit Gallery.”

Neyman said it has always been the goal of the USMM Board of Directors to fully secure funding for the Museum prior to opening. Through September 2022, the museum had raised $45 million of the $50 million initial campaign goal from local, regional and national donors.

“We are approximately $3.5 million from that goal currently. This funding will help ensure we open the doors Summer 2023,” she said. “We currently have several funding proposals in front of donors and are working on a partnership that has the potential to have a significant impact on the project.”

Construction is ongoing, with much progress being made, in the exhibit space of the museum, Ben Johnson, museum president and CEO, said in January. The general contractor, Little Rock-based CDI Contractors, and the exhibit design team met in January to make sure everything is on track for the exhibit shell, Johnson said. The general contractor, exhibit subcontractors and designers are continuing to meet and develop a “plan of attack” for getting the experiences all into the space and going as needed for the opening, he added.

In September 2022, museum staff signed a contract with experience design firm ThinkWell Group to design, fabricate and install the Museum’s exhibit experiences by mid-2023.

“Once completed, the U.S. Marshals Museum will tell the rich story of America’s oldest federal law enforcement agency, the constitution, and the Rule of Law through immersive and interactive exhibit experiences that will educate and entertain visitors of all ages,” the museum’s website states.

The website also notes that an official opening date will be announced once the exhibit experiences are nearing completion. Johnson has said the plan is to open this summer.

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.

Once open, the museum will tell the story of the United State’s oldest federal law, which was established by President George Washington.

Arkansas Heritage was created in 1975 and is a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.