The Ralph Foster Museum on the campus of the College of the Ozarks, is actively supporting the academic, vocational, patriotic, Christian and cultural goals of the college. The museum which is known locally as ‘’The Smithsonian of the Ozarks,’’ was named for Ralph Foster even though Foster wasn’t involved with it until the 1960s. The museum was started in 1920s as a bird collection in a men’s dormitory basement. Ralph was then a radio mogul and founded the KWTO (Keep Watching the Ozarks) and the long-running Ozark Jubilee. His generous cash donations and display of artifacts in the museum earned him gratitude and immortality for himself as long as the museum stays in business and keeps his name.
The beautiful location of Ralph Foster Museum inside the College of the Ozarks help made the museum in providing a quality education for the campus and the community by focusing on the culture in the Ozarks region. Being one of the true pioneers of radio, Ralph Foster is one of the first to realize the vast potential of a new and exciting field of mass communication. Mr. Foster and his partner, Jerry Hall, set up a 50-watt station, KGBX in a corner of their Firestone tire store in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1924.
Their radio venture began as a hobby, but as businesses increasingly sought radio advertisement, the station blossomed in a full-time business. It didn’t go long before a brand new super service station and glassed in studios of a radio station was built a few blocks north of the old tire store located on Frederick Avenue. This time the age of radio had just begun. However, Mr. Foster moved the radio station to Springfield, Missouri in 1932. Unable to get a power increase for KGBX, he purchased the license of a radio station in Grant City, Missouri, and utilized it to his radio station in Springfield. KGBX became a dominant station in the Ozarks area but unfortunately it was sold in the early 1940’s.
Mr. Foster had been collecting Indian artifacts for many years. His interest in the School of the Ozarks prompted him to turn over his vast collection to the school’s museum. Because of his generosity and abiding interests, the Board of Trustees of the School of the Ozarks that later became the College of the Ozarks voted to rename the museum as “Ralph Foster Museum’’ in mid-1960’s. Ralph Foster passed away on August 11, 1984.
Ralph Foster Museum today is primarily focusing to collect, interpret, preserve, and exhibit items relating to the Ozarks region. One of the most famous exhibits inside the Ralph Foster Museum is the original vehicle used in the television series “The Beverly Hillbillies.’’ In addition to famous exhibits, visitors will find weapons, antiques, dolls, natural history and other unique items from around the world.
If you want to take an educational vacation this spring season, visit the Ralph Foster Museum in the College of the Ozarks that features famous exhibits and artifacts from the Ozark region.
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