National Museum of American History Displays Treasures During Renovation

Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers and the Scarecrow Are Off to See Some Spacecraft
November 15, 2006
Two of the original munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz” will welcome the ruby slippers today to their temporary home at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in the new exhibition, “Treasures of American History,” presented by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Opening Friday, Nov. 17, the exhibition features more than 150 well-known objects, including some that have rarely been displayed, such as Ray Bolger’s Scarecrow costume from “The Wizard of Oz”; Thomas Jefferson’s Bible; Susan B. Anthony’s shawl; and an early pair of Levi’s denim jeans. The exhibition is part of the Museum’s Star-Spangled Banner Campaign to revitalize the nation’s leading American history Museum.

"Treasures of American History" closed April 13, 2008.  For information about the Museum's reopening, go to our renovation page.

The 5,000-square-foot exhibition is organized into four distinct themes: Creativity and Innovation, American Biography, National Challenges and American Identity. With its jewel-toned cases and labels, the exhibition highlights such American icons as Abraham Lincoln’s top hat; the compass used by Lewis and Clark during their journey across the Louisiana Territory; the lunch counter from Greensboro, N.C., where four African American students began a "sit-in" that lasted for six-months; Thomas Edison’s lightbulb; General Custer’s buckskin jacket; and Kermit the Frog.

“While the National Museum of American History is under construction to create a stimulating and dynamic cultural environment, I am honored that visitors will have a chance to experience the Museum’s pre-eminent collections in this extraordinary exhibition,” said Director Brent D. Glass. “Never before has the Museum amassed so many treasures representing the nation’s history in one place at one time,” he added.

“Treasures of American History” represents just one component of the Star-Spangled Banner Campaign, whose goal is to raise $180 million to dramatically transform the architectural and intellectual organization of the building and the presentation of its unrivaled collections. The Museum closed in September 2006 for a 20-month renovation project and will re-open in summer 2008.

A new acquisitions case in the exhibition will showcase the Museum’s ongoing collecting efforts and will highlight new objects every few months. Objects collected from New Orleans and the gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will inaugurate the case.

Docents will be available in the gallery daily to answer visitor questions between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. In addition, there will be two “Meet the Curator” book signings for the companion book, “Treasures of American History,” published by Smithsonian Books. The signings are Saturday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Dec. 10, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The Museum has commissioned the MAGroup in Bethel, Conn., to create a lenticular image of the ruby slippers which will appear in the outdoor poster kiosks outside of the Museum’s building and the National Air and Space Museum. When visitors walk by the lenticular image, the picture will shift to make the slippers appear to “click.”

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage through exhibitions and public programs about social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Documenting the American experience from Colonial times to the present, the Museum looks at growth and change in the United States. The Museum closed for major renovations Sept. 5 and will re-open in summer 2008. For more information, visit the museum’s Web site at or call (202) 633-1000; (202) 357-1729 (TTY).