The famous Ruby Slippers Judy Garland wore in the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz, which were recently highlighted as part of a successful Kickstarter campaign for their conservation and future display, will be removed from view in April for more than a year to prepare them for a new exhibition on American popular culture. The slippers are currently on view in “American Stories” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History through April 23.
The museum launched the Kickstarter campaign in October 2016 and garnered more than 6,450 backers from across the globe, raising $373,000 as of Feb. 23. The funds are to be used for immediate conservation care and a future, state-of-the-art display case designed to protect the Ruby Slippers from environmental harm and to slow their deterioration. The successful campaign ensures that millions more people can enjoy the Ruby Slippers for many generations to come.
Once removed from display, the museum’s conservators will begin the process of conserving the slippers. The work will include researching and determining the physical state of the slippers through scientific research and testing. This will help curators define the best methods for preservation, conservation treatment and case and exhibition design.
The whip and fedora hat Harrison Ford wore in his role as Indiana Jones will be placed on display April 24. Filmmaker George Lucas created the globe-trekking archeologist to pay homage to classic Hollywood adventure films. Jones, a reluctant hero, finds himself fighting evil doers of all sorts while seeking to preserve cultural heritage. The Indiana Jones series, directed by Steven Spielberg, is among the most successful movie franchises in American history.
The Wizard of Oz musical film is a fantasy tale about Kansas farm-girl Dorothy’s journey to a magical land, and it was based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1856–1919). In addition to its many other merits, the film ranks as a milestone in the history of Technicolor because of its extensive color sequences set in the Land of Oz. The magical shoes, changed from the book’s silver slippers to those with an iridescent red hue, played a central role in the film. The Ruby Slippers were designed by Gilbert Adrian, MGM’s chief costume designer at the time. Adrian also designed the many costumes in The Wizard of Oz, including the Scarecrow costume, which is also in the Smithsonian’s collection. Adrian created multiple pairs of Ruby Slippers; the pair in the nation’s collection was worn by Dorothy as she followed the Yellow Brick Road.
The Ruby Slippers were donated anonymously to the museum in 1979 and have been on almost continuous display for three decades, and as a Smithsonian cornerstone, they are deserving of special care and attention as a beloved icon to so many. In the meantime, the conservator who will work closely with the Ruby Slippers can be seen here: http://s.si.edu/ktrb2.
To create the slippers, Adrian altered commercially manufactured red shoes by attaching red netting to their tops and heels and covering it with red sequins. Movie costumes and props are made quickly and cheaply; they are meant to last only for the brief duration of the shoot and not for posterity.
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is continuing to renovate its west exhibition wing, developing galleries on democracy and culture. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets N.W. Admission is free. For more information, visit https://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.
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