Ozarks Life: MSU teams with Smithsonian to highlight Ozarks culture

The Smithsonian will feature “The Ozarks” at its 2023 Folklife Festival.
Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 6:40 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 2, 2022 at 8:25 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - In the Ozarks, many of us know, we have an embarrassment of riches.

“It’s an amazing region, just an amazing region,” Missouri State University Dean of Library Services, Tom Peters said.

But what does our nation’s capital, and the world, know about the Ozarks?

“Our mission is public affairs,” Peters said. “And so the way I interpret it, and I think our President and others do, is that it’s part of our service to the region.”

Missouri State University will be doing that at the request of the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum. A little over a year ago, it reached out to MSU and presented a unique opportunity. Next summer, for the first time in the history of its Folklife Festival, the Smithsonian wants to focus on the Ozarks.

“(The event) highlights folk cultures around the world, both in the United States and beyond,” Peters said. “So for example, this year, the programmatic focus was on the United Arab Emirates.”

It’s a series of concerts, cuisine, and question and answer filling a 10-day festival on the National Mall. For the next 12 months, Peters and his team will serve as the co-curators of the event with the Smithsonian.

This past week, Peters, MSU President Clif Smart, and others went to D.C. to see this year’s event.

“We’ve got to supply food and music and crafts and demonstrations and panel discussions,” Smart said.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Peters said. “But we have a lot of great organizations and individuals and talent in the Ozarks.”

“All of our minds just filled with all the possibilities,” Smart added.

During their visit, they treated attendees with a preview of next summer’s theme with a two-hour, toe-tapping, fiddling concert right in the heart of D.C.

“We really want to use it to raise the profile of our region and raise the profile of our university,” Smart said.

“We cannot portray the Ozarks exhaustively over 10 days on the National Mall,” Peters said. “So we have to be selective on who’s going, what kind of crafts and things are going to be featured, and what kind of musical entertainment is going to be presented.”

Missouri State Libraries was chosen for this endeavor thanks to its commitment to our region. Over the last 30 years and especially the past decade, the Libraries have been collecting and preserving our history. Ozark Jubilee, Route 66, and music going back over a century are just a few of the Libraries’ projects.

“We want to be the expert on Ozarks culture and history,” Smart said, “and that’s what we focused our archives on.”

“I really want people to come away with a sense of how amazing and diverse the Ozarks region is,” Peters said. “It’s not just what you see on television or on made-for-cable kind of series. Amazing people. Talented people. They love the region and they’re totally committed to the region.”

The 2023 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will be from June 27 through July 8 in Washington D.C.

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