Joplin Museum's Executive Director honored with 2006 Governor's Humanities Award for Community Involvement

November 25, 2006 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
Brad Belk, executive director of the Joplin Museum Complex, was recently honored with the 2006 Governor’s Humanities Community Heritage Award, conferred by the Missouri Humanities Council. This award recognizes a special contribution to a community’s understanding of its heritage. The award ceremony took place at the Missouri Governor's Mansion in Jefferson City.

Brad Belk has been a practicing public historian in southwest Missouri for the last nineteen years. He is an educator, archivist, exhibit designer and conservator. In addition, Belk has authored three hard-bound history books entitled The American Photographic Series: Best of Joplin, Orley’s Legacy-The History of Freeman Health System, and Murwin Mosler’s Gift to Joplin. He has co-written two books featuring a compilation of historical essays, as well as researching, co-creating and co-producing a series of award winning historical documentaries for Ozarks Public Television.

Brad Belk accepting his award from MHC Board Chair John A. Wright

Since 1997 he has created a weekly feature for The Joplin Globe titled “The Way We Were”. Belk co-chaired the City of Joplin’s 125th celebration, directed the rediscovery of Crystal Cave, participated on the Jasper County Centennial Courthouse commission, and served as past president of the Ozark Museums Association. He has also served on the boards of the Missouri Alliance For Historic Preservation and the Route 66 Association of Missouri. He is a member of the Joplin Elk’s Elkland, Missouri Southern Alumni Association, the Association of Science Museum Directors, the Archaeological Conservancy, the National Council on Public History and an honorary Life Member of the Joplin Historical Society. Belk is the historian for the Joplin Rotary Club and the Merle Evans Circus Tent No. 27. Belk has been with the Joplin Museum Complex since 1987 and serves as the executive director of the museum. The JMC is committed to preserving the history of the tri-state mining district and southwest Missouri. The JMC has dramatically changed under Belk’s leadership. During his tenure a major addition has been added to the museum, which includes a large exhibit/multi-purpose hall and storage collection area. All the exhibit and display areas were reworked and renovated. New exhibits were created that explore local subjects such as the Spook Light, Crystal Cave, Route 66, the Civil War, the infamous shoot out with Bonnie & Clyde, the McGee Drugstore, the House of Lords, the Joplin High School Rose Bowl Parade, and an area devoted to the pre- historic animals of the region. The seventy-five year old Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral wing was completely overhauled in 2004. Today visitors enter the wing in a replicated underground setting which leads them to the most extraordinary set of lead and zinc mineral specimens in the world. The JMC experience has been further enhanced with the addition of the Joplin Sports Hall of Fame, the Empire District Electric Company Museum and the National Cookie Cutters Historical Museum. Belk has also been responsible for putting in place a personnel system that utilizes highly trained and dedicated professionals. The JMC staff provides expertise, knowledge and a wide array of community outreach services and programs. In addition Belk merged four specialized libraries to one environmentally controlled centralized archive.

In 1991 he married Belinda Porter. Both are extremely active in serving the Joplin community with their time, talent, and careers, and are honored to do so.

Since 1971, the Missouri Humanities Council has provided thousands of programs to help Missourians enjoy a rich cultural life and develop community citizenship. Our mission is to enable families and communities to broaden their appreciation of history, literature, and the ideas that shape our democracy. Our programs include: READ from the START, family reading initiative; Chautauqua, community celebration of history: Charettes, consulting for local museums & cultural institutions; Museum on Main Street rural initiative of the Smithsonian Institution; as well as Grants and Initiatives to fund locally generated programs.

To learn more about the Governor’s Humanities Awards, this year’s other honorees, or to nominate someone for the 2007 Community Heritage, Excellence in Secondary Education, or Book Awards, please visit our website,

MHC is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities, a Federal agency.