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History & Honor: The Making of a Museum

Despite being a massive project 16 years in the making, The U.S. Marshals Museum was hardly immune to the delays and challenges brought on by the pandemic. So when global strategy, design, and production agency Thinkwell Group tapped Bridgewater to help them get the project over the finish line once the world re-opened, we were invigorated by the task.


The Challenge

Although Thinkwell had a working budget and design for the museum, pandemic-related challenges including delays and price increases made working within the existing budget and meeting the ambitious timeline significantly challenging. In addition, tight coordination was required with the general contractor, lighting design and integration teams, artifact case manufacturers, the media design and production team, as well as A/V systems and integration teams because the facility construction was happening concurrently with the exhibit fabrication.



Our objective was to help maximize value by streamlining the design development phase to improve the timeline and integrate engineering along the way so that design and engineering were seamlessly melded on the path to production. 

Early concept image


Our approach was to treat the project as a design-build effort, even though Thinkwell was responsible for the design. We worked closely with their team to qualify designs in real-time and provide budget feedback in order to work towards solutions and achieve the most value for the design, retain the intent, and not exceed the pre-pandemic budget.

Rendering image


 Because the 53,000-square-foot facility was being constructed concurrently with all inaugural exhibitions, it was vital that our team ship the largest, most complete components directly from the studio to minimize onsite assembly and finishing. In addition, since all fabrications were destined for not yet-finalized spaces, it was paramount to ensure good fitment and clean lines for set show items to allow enough tolerances for scribing on site.
The U.S. Marshals Museum opened in Fort Smith, Arkansas on July 1, 2023. It offers a retrospective of the Marshals Service through the lens of its place in history while examining the present and looking toward the future of the service and the evolving challenges it faces. Bridgewater Studio is proud to have contributed to this important cultural institution.
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