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Kansas museum puts Oz on the map

Published Aug. 27, 2005

A museum devoted to the culture and kitsch of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the 1939 MGM film based on the book has opened in Wamego, a small town about 85 miles west of Kansas City, Kan.

In the works for eight years, the Oz Museum, in a remodeled 19th century building downtown, shows off most of the 2,000-piece collection of former Wamego native Tod Machin.

Highlights include a first edition of Baum's 1900 book; a munchkin costume from the Wizard of Oz movie; a dress worn by Diana Ross in The Wiz, the 1978 film version of the Broadway musical inspired by the book; masks and dolls of Oz characters from around the world; and an array of toys, posters, clothing and other memorabilia.

One case is devoted to the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy in the 1939 movie. It contains a reproduction pair, along with a sequin from one of the original shoes, museum curator Jim Ginavan said.

Visitors enter through a sepia-toned mockup of the Gale family farmyard, then cross the front porch of the "house," open the screen door and enter the color-splashed "Land of Oz."

"As you move through the museum, you're moving through the movie," Ginavan said.

Still being installed are life-sized fiberglass figures of Dorothy, the Tin Man and other Oz characters, with murals as backdrops. The murals are expected to be finished in April, Ginavan said.

The museum, funded by $100,000 from the state and more than $400,000 in locally raised private funds, is part of campaign to capitalize on Kansas' role as the fictional home of Dorothy. The Legislature has redubbed U.S. 54 as the Yellow Brick Road and another highway leading into Wamego as the Road to Oz.

The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for ages 4 to 12 and is free for those younger than 4. Call toll-free 1-866-458-8686.