Written by Nichole Russell
Posted by Mark Ruda
The Ralph Foster Museum
The Smithsonian of the Ozarks, College of the Ozarks
The Ralph Foster Museum, located on the College of the Ozarks campus, houses three floors of Ozark history and promises hours of entertainment for visitors of all ages.
According to the Ralph Foster Museum website, rfostermuseum.com, the museum started out in the basement of a boys dorm on campus and was later relocated to its own space.
Ralph Foster, a former president of C of O, wanted to have a museum on campus to house Ozark history and other historical artifacts.
Rfostermuseum.com said the museums primary focus “is to collect, preserve, interpret and exhibit items relating to the Ozarks region.”
The museum, donned “The Smithsonian of the Ozarks,” looks to support and educate the public through C of O’s academic, vocational, Christian, patriotic, and cultural goals by presenting exhibits and artifacts which coincide with each goal.
The three floors of the museum have different themes within each.
The first floor houses the museum’s most popular artifact, the original car used in the Beverley Hillbillies television show which was donated to the college for use in the museum. Also housed on the first floor the Edwards Art Gallery shows off local artists, Rose O’Neill art, and paintings depicting different scenes from the White River. There is also a small Children’s Discovery exhibit and a Primitive Americana gallery.
The second floor is home to Ralph Foster’s extensive gun collection, some replicas of famous Ozarkian’s offices, and assorted examples of natural history, which Foster loved so much.
The third floor is made up of more natural history artifacts such as birds, butterflies, moths, and rocks and minerals. Also on the third level there is a special History of the Ozarks sections, as well as information on the history of College of the Ozarks.
Beside the museum itself, the Ralph Foster Museum offers educational programs for school age children. The museum provides kits with artifacts for learning on loan to schools to educate children on different topics.
Also housed at the Ralph Foster Museum is the Brownell Research Library. F. R. and Lois Brownell, owners of the Brownell, Inc., the world’s largest gunsmithing tools and firearms parts, accessories, and specialty equipment supplier in the world, established a research library in 1977 to further the Ralph Foster Museum named the Bob and Lois Brownell Research Center. While the library is not open to the public, C of O students are able to use it for research purposes and appointments can be made to use the library for research purposes.
Located right next to the Ralph Foster Museum, the Star School house. The Star School, built in 1910, was originally located in Barry County, Missouri but was relocated to the C of O campus for preservation and display. This one room school house has been restored to perfectly resemble what a school child of the 1900’s would have been taught lessons in.
“Complete with desks, McGuffey’s Readers, and an authentic school marm costume, the Star School House will give you a look at what it was like to attend grade school back in the early 1900s,” cofo.edu stated.
The Ralph Foster Museum’s operating hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It is 6 dollars for adults, 5 dollars for seniors, 4 dollars for veterans, and free to children high school age and under.
The Ralph Foster Museum’s eclectic history is sure to be a treat for the whole family and great afternoon getaway.