Located within the campus of the College of the Ozarks in Missouri, the Ralph Foster Museum had humble beginnings. Founded in the 1920's, the museum is now one of the foremost historical preservation institutions in America's Midwest. The college's president at the time, Dr. Robert M. Good, became interested in the idea of a museum being present on campus. He made space available in the basement of Abernathy Hall for the display of various items. When the boy's residence hall was vacated, the entire building was converted into a museum.
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The primary mission today of the Ralph Foster Museum is to collect, interpret, exhibit, and preserve items related to the region of the Ozarks. Of the most famous exhibits at the museum is the original vehicle used in the television show "The Beverly Hillbillies." Visitors will also find natural history, weapons, dolls, antiques, and other objects from around the world. Ralph Foster, for whom the museum is named, was one of the true radio pioneers. Foster was one of the first to realize the vast potential of radio, both as an exciting means of mass entertainment and education.
There is a very wide variety of items on display at the Ralph Foster Museum. The Apollo Mission display features a plaque that is one of three created from the original mold. One of the other plaques was left during a mission on the moon. The Cameo Collection includes cameos made from an array of materials, such as precious gems and shells.
The museum also includes exhibits about the natural history of the Ozarks region. Many different animals are on display in the North American Taxidermy section of the exhibit. A Rolls-Royce Phantom II, the last of the 6-cylinder cars made under F. Henry Royce's supervision, is also on display at the Ralph Foster Museum.
The Star School at the Ralph Foster Museum provides visitors with a glimpse in to the past. This one-room, turn-of-the-century schoolhouse can be found just to the north of the museum. Star School Number 38 was originally located along the banks of Flat Creek in Barry County, downstream from Mc Dowell, Missouri. The College of the Ozarks received the small schoolhouse in 1975. The building had to be moved in sections due to narrow roads, and then meticulously put back together beside the museum. On March 28, 1981, four teachers who had taught students at the Star School were honored at dedication ceremonies: Ella Garris, Leta Thomas Chastain, Edna Berry Melton, and Ben Stubblefield.
The Ralph Foster Museum provides many educational programs for younger visitors to the museum. The Discovery Room offers several interactive, hands-on activities for children four to nine years of age. An adult must accompany children while they are in the Discovery Room. Teachers can take advantage of loan kits to use in their classrooms. These kits contain text, worksheets, audio, and artifacts, and are loaned to educators for a five-day period.
1 Cultural Court, Point Lookout, Missouri, Phone: 417-690-3407