Vol. I, No. 1, Summer 1987

About the Centers

by Robert K. Gilmore

In the article on the front cover, Bob Flanders has sketched some of the ideas that we have for the concept and content of OzarksWatch. Maybe it will be helpful to explain a bit about the nature of the two centers that the masthead credits with responsibility for this publication and why these units of a university should be concerned with the Ozarks at all.

Several decades of tourism, miles of paved highways and mega - lakes created by mega - dams have not obscured the fact that the Ozarks is a very special historic place, a region where America as it once was can still be seen, sensed and even experienced. Perhaps it is in recognition of this uniqueness that Southwest Missouri State University has in-eluded in its mission statement the obligation to "preserve and advance knowledge about the region's social and cultural heritage ...'

Since 1979 the Center for Ozarks Studies has been active in support of this university goal. This involvement has included investigation, interpretation and writings on Ozarks history topics; media productions documenting Ozarks heritage and culture; historic site and landscape evaluations; oral history projects: and assembling written and graphic Ozarks documents.

The University Center in the White River Valley is more recently established and has a considerably more diversified purpose. From this center we try to make available to the different communities of the White River Valley some of the many resources of the university. Activities include working with the tourism industry, teaching credit and non - credit classes and workshops, and providing patrons with convenient access to university information and materials. However, most germane to the discussion here, we have as a very important goal tile promotion of knowledge about the Ozarks.

The area known as the White River Valley is a particularly felicitous place from which to observe, and study, the Ozarks. The historic riverways, distinctive landscape, abundant natural resources, traditional folk culture, retirement and recreation industries so dependent on Ozarks heritage all contribute to the value of this region as an appropriate laboratory for examining issues that affect the Ozarks.

Importantly, in the area there are many people now concerned with these issues. Knowledgeable and concerned writers, artists, educators, historians, conservationists, planners, photographers, and, yes, businessmen and developers, are dedicated to this enterprise and actively seeking knowledge about how to deal with the responsibility of living in the presence of the past.

Since the goals of the two centers overlap and are so mutually supportive, a collaboration between the two seemed obvious.

We are excited about the possibilities of OzarksWatch as a means of communicating with people who care, or should care, about the Ozarks. Through OzarksWatch our two centers hope to become even more active and effective in promoting knowledge about and concern for this special place, the Ozarks. OzarksWatch will be a forum to air ideas -- ours, yours and others'. Please join us, actively, in this enterprise.

Robert K. Gilmore is director of the SMS University Center in the White River Valley.


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