Dorothy may not have surrendered her ruby red slippers to the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz,” but the slippers’ display space in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in being ceded to Indiana Jones artifacts. The slippers’ last day on display (for now) in the American Stories area will be April 23, 2017.
Smithsonian visitors this summer may be disappointed. However, there are two very good reasons for the ruby slippers to go off display: Conservation and Collection size.
The ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz,” are probably the most famous prop shoes from a motion picture. A mere glimpse of them and people can identify the film, picture Oz, Glinda, the Munchkins and other favorite aspects. The vivid red color stood out so vividly against the yellow brick road. How many little girls don copycat shoes nearly 80 years later?
The ruby slippers (of which several pairs were actually made) were made from regular red shoes with red netting attached and sequins added. However, movie costumes and props are not meant to last and the slippers need conservation and a new display case to ensure they do not deteriorate further. The Smithsonian used a Kickstarter campaign last fall to raise more than $373,000 for the conservation effort and a new exhibition design.
The Smithsonian’s American History collection contains more than 3 million artifacts. Many of the museum’s treasures are rarely seen and stored elsewhere. Only a small percentage is on display. That was true even before the museum’s current renovation project required things to be removed as new areas evolve. Furthermore, when it comes to pop culture, the collection is constantly growing. From television shows alone, the museum has displayed Archie Bunker’s chair from “All in the Family,” Fonzie’s “Happy Days” jacket, the puffy shirt from “Seinfeld,” props from “M.A.S.H,” and countless other programs. Their collection of items from movies is vast, encompassing 100 years of hits. So, while Dorothy’s slippers are popular, there are many other popular items waiting in the wings.
In fact, the museum will be replacing the “Wizard of Oz” slipper display with signature items worn by Harrison Ford in the four Indiana Jones films. Artifacts associated with the fictional archeologist in the adventure film series have been on display before, and Indy’s whip and fedora are returning April 24.
Dorothy’s ruby red slippers may be temporarily surrendering their space in the Smithsonian to Indiana Jones memorabilia. However, there are several notable exhibits coming in April commemorating the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is known for its displays in the areas of cultural, political, societal, science and military history. At any given time, visitors may see the original Star-Spangled Banner, Abraham Lincoln’s iconic hat, the inaugural gowns worn by First Ladies, and collections showing Armed Forces history. Museum admission is free.
By Dyanne Weiss
Smithsonian: Smithsonian Removes Ruby Slippers From Display for Conservation
Smithsonian: Calendar of Exhibitions and Events, April 2017
NBC Washington: The Smithsonian Artifacts Visitors Don’t See
Photo by RadioFan at English Wikipedia, used courtesy Creative Commons license