Marshals Museum Plans Unveiled

FORT SMITH -- Fort Smith residents got their first glimpse of how a consultant plans to tell the U.S. Marshals Service story at the national museum being planned in Fort Smith.

A team from Brent Johnson Design of Boston, including Matt Kirchman of ObjectIDEA, showed about 100 people in downtown Fort Smith on Friday [March 13] that the exhibit area would be divided into four main interpretive galleries, along with a changing exhibit gallery and a learning center.

"An enormous thank you," retired Fort Smith teacher Mary Huss said after the 90-minute presentation. "It's so exciting, and I appreciate all that you've done. Can't wait."

Plans for the 50,000-square-foot museum on the banks of the Arkansas River progress as officials continue to raise the estimated $50 million it will cost to build the museum and develop the exhibits.

Museum officials have raised about $20 million so far. They hope to begin construction next year and open the museum in 2017.

One of the four galleries is being called the Hall of Honor. It was announced Friday the hall will be named for the late Samuel M. Sicard, who was president of the First National Bank of Fort Smith, an original museum board member and a longtime supporter of the community and the museum. His son, Sam T. Sicard, said his father was passionate about the U.S. Marshals Museum and the U.S. Marshals Service.

"He saw the impact this is going to have on our community, on our downtown and the development of the riverfront," Sam T. Sicard said during Friday's announcement.

Museum CEO Jim Dunn also announced Friday that First Bank Corp., the parent company of First National Bank of Fort Smith, Citizens Bank and Trust and BHC Insurance, is donating $1 million for the museum and that family and friends of Samuel M. Sicard are matching the donation with another $1 million.

Sam T. Sicard and Dunn mentioned the death Tuesday of U.S. Deputy Marshal Josie Wells, who was shot to death in the line of duty in Louisiana, leaving behind a wife and an unborn son.

"My great hope is that Josie Jr. will someday get to come to this museum, come to the Hall of Honor and see his dad's name up there, and see something about his dad and learn about how his dad was a hero for this country," Sam T. Sicard said.

The Hall of Honor will be designed as a place of quiet reverence, Johnson said. Three large columns in the middle of the gallery will contain video screens telling about each of the more than 250 marshals who died in the line of duty during the service's 225-year existence. One wall will contain changeable artifact cases telling particular marshals' stories. The opposite wall have the names of the honored marshals etched in stone.

The Marshals Today gallery will give an overview of the Marshals Service, [exhibit developer] Matt Kirchman said. It will include a Marshals by the Numbers exhibit with statistics, figures and dates; a timeline of the Marshals Service's history; a Justice Integrity Service theater -- named for the service's motto -- that will give an introduction to the agency; and an updateable 15 Most Wanted list.

The Frontier Marshals gallery will feature the Marshals Service of the Old West, the section most visitors expect to see, Kirchman said. "Being located in Fort Smith, we as designers thought we need to deliver that," he said. It will feature a rolling map discussing the meaning, composition and duration of the frontier; exhibits about the first marshals; famed Fort Smith Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves; and the Goingsnake shootout in April 1872, in which eight deputy marshals were killed in the Cherokee Nation.

Johnson said the designers were still organizing the Changing Nation gallery. It is expected to have three ­areas: Challenges to Authority, which will discuss the Whiskey Rebellion in the 18th century; Justice for All, which will cover such topics as the 19th century's Fugitive Slave Act; and Maintaining Order, which will focus on school integration in the 1950s.

[Arkansas Online]