Construction has begun on a museum that will spotlight the storied history of the U.S. Marshals Service, the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.
The U.S. Marshals Museum will cost roughly $53 million and is expected to open by 2017. Ground was broken on the project in Fort Smith, Arkansas, on Sept. 24, 2014, the 225th anniversary of the founding of the Marshals Service.
“With our fugitive task forces, state-of-the-art technology, and investigative expertise, we have made the idea of escaping justice nearly impossible,” Marshals Service Director Stacia Hylton said in a statement. “Every day our deputies track down the worst-of-the-worst criminal offenders.”
The original Marshals Service museum was in Laramie, Wyoming, but closed in 2002. The Marshals Service began looking for a new host city three years later, starting with a pool of 16 possible locations. Fort Smith, a city of 86,000 that sits just inside Arkansas’ western border, was chosen over the other finalist, Staunton, Virginia, in 2007, according to the Southwest Times Record.
Museum officials told the newspaper they have raised nearly $20 million for the project, including a $5 million gift from an anonymous donor announced days before the groundbreaking ceremony. Boosters also hope to receive an additional $5 million from the sale of coins commemorating the 225th anniversary of the service. The coins will go on sale in 2015, according to the U.S. Mint.
The U.S. Marshals Service was founded in 1789 when President George Washington signed the Judiciary Act into law. The number of Marshals has grown from the 13 appointed by Washington to 94, one for each federal judicial district. They are presidential appointments.
The service has about 5,400 employees, including more than 3,800 deputy U.S. Marshals and criminal investigators. A bachelor’s degree in a field such as Criminal Justice is a typical educational requirement for a career as a deputy U.S. Marshal.
The Marshals Service, which has a yearly budget of nearly $1.2 billion, is responsible for a multitude of activities, including apprehending fugitives, housing and transporting federal prisoners, protecting witnesses and federal judges, and managing and selling seized assets. In fiscal year 2013, the service arrested 110,252 fugitives, including more than 4,000 homicide suspects, and cleared more than 134,000 warrants.
The museum will have 20,000 square feet of exhibit space divided into three galleries to spotlight historical milestones. There will be interactive exhibitions, video and audio narratives, outdoor spaces overlooking the Arkansas River and a museum store. One exhibition that has already been announced is a Hall of Honor commemorating Marshals, deputized Guards and Special Deputy Marshals who have been killed in the line of duty.