Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

No-brainer: $300K campaign to rescue Dorothy's ruby slippers

The sequin-covered ruby slippers, shown in 2001, are the most recognizable prop for the beloved 1939 musical The Wizard of Oz. [Associated Press]

The sequin-covered ruby slippers, shown in 2001, are the most recognizable prop for the beloved 1939 musical The Wizard of Oz. [Associated Press]

WASHINGTON — It will take more than three clicks of the heels to preserve the ruby slippers that whisked Dorothy back to Kansas at the end of The Wizard of Oz.

The slippers, which for more than 30 years have been one of the most beloved items at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, were crafted almost 80 years ago by the MGM Studios prop department. Like most movie props, they weren't built to last. Now, the frayed shoes aren't even ruby-colored anymore — they're more like a dull auburn.

On Monday, the Smithsonian asked the public to help save the slippers, launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise $300,000. In addition to keeping the shoes' color from deteriorating further, the money will go toward a technologically advanced display case that will preserve them for future generations.

The Smithsonian's museums are federally funded, but the institution frequently solicits private and corporate contributions for major projects that its budget doesn't cover. This is the Smithsonian's second Kickstarter campaign. In 2015, the National Air and Space Museum raised $700,000 through the crowd-funding site to preserve the spacesuit that Neil Armstrong wore when he walked on the moon.

"This particular pair of ruby slippers really belongs to the American people, and so we thought as we sought support that we would invite the public to join us on this journey to help preserve them for the next generation," said Melinda Machado, a museum spokeswoman.

If the Kickstarter campaign is successful, the slippers will be the second-most-researched item in the museum's collection, behind the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star-Spangled Banner, said Richard Barden, the museum's head of conservation.

The shoes are the most recognizable prop for the beloved 1939 musical, their deep red hue dazzling audiences when the movie made its dramatic transition from black-and-white to Technicolor. They have been on near-constant display since they were anonymously donated to the museum in 1979.

Their age is showing, and preserving them is more complicated than it might appear. The slippers contain a dozen different materials. The sequins are made of gelatin with a primitive plastic coating, and many are no longer red because the coating has flaked off, in part because of decades of exposure to light and moisture. The undersides of the sequins, or portions that did not have direct exposure to light, have retained more of their color.

The shoes also include glass beads and red felt on the soles that was used to muffle their sound when Judy Garland wore them during dance sequences.

The pair is also mismatched: One shoe is wider than the other, and there are other subtle differences in their shape. Each has Garland's name written inside.

The museum will research the ideal conditions for the various materials that make up the shoes. The new case is likely to contain a gas other than oxygen, with controls on temperature, humidity and barometric pressure, said Richard Barden, the museum's head of conservation.

"That case becomes very expensive to build, and we want to build one that will be efficient and low-maintenance so we're doing the best for the slipper and keeping our costs as low as possible," Barden said.

By late Tuesday, donors had pledged more than $108,000 on Kickstarter. If the museum does not reach its $300,000 goal in 30 days, no one will be charged. Donations start at $1 and, depending how much they give, contributors can receive rewards including T-shirts and tote bags created by William Ivey Long, a Tony award-winning costume designer.

No-brainer: $300K campaign to rescue Dorothy's ruby slippers 10/18/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 18, 2016 11:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bill Nelson knocks Rick Scott over Senate health bill

    Blogs

    Sen. Bill Nelson attacked Gov. Rick Scott, his likely 2018 rival, over today's trip to Washington.

  2. For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Hechavarria active, Robertson sent down

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 3:09: Rays have activated Hechavarria and sent down Robertson.

    Also, C Derek Norris was released; he had been DFA'd last week.

    The stellar view from the press box at PNC Park.
  3. LaVar Ball appears at WWE event, son LaMelo uses slur

    Blogs

    LOS ANGELES  -- LaVar Ball has brought his Big Baller Brand from the basketball court to the wrestling ring. 
    The outspoken father of NBA Draft No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball showed up with the newly-minted Los Angeles Laker and another son, 15-year-old son LaMelo, for a live segment on Monday's "WWE …

    LaVar Ball took off his shirt during a WWE broadcast.
  4. Facing defections, Senate GOP leaders delay health care vote

    National

    WASHINGTON — In a bruising setback, Senate Republican leaders are delaying a vote on their prized health care bill until after the July 4 recess, forced to retreat by a GOP rebellion that left them lacking enough votes to even begin debating the legislation, two sources said Tuesday.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, talks with his chief of staff Sharon Soderstrom, right, and communications staff director Antonia Ferrier, left, as they walk to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 26, 2017. Senate Republicans unveil a revised health care bill in hopes of securing support from wavering GOP lawmakers, including one who calls the drive to whip his party's bill through the Senate this week "a little offensive." [Associated Press]
  5. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    Former Florida Gov. and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their condo in downtown St. Petersburg on the market for $1.5 million. [Courtesy of Rhonda Sanderford]