Hey Smithsonian - How Were Dorothy's Slippers Conserved?

We all know “there’s no place like home,” and the Smithsonian Institution is lucky enough to be home to a pair of Dorothy’s original ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. After over a year of careful study and preservation, these special heels will return to display on October 19, 2018, so visitors will once again be able to marvel at the famous sparkling shoes featured in one of the most iconic films in American history.

Four pairs of ruby slippers that were used in the film are known to exist. One pair recently made headlines as they were recovered by the FBI after being missing for 13 years. Another, more protected pair, safely resides in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The ruby slippers were donated to the museum anonymously in 1979, and were on display almost continuously until April 2017 when they were removed to be studied, stabilized, and preserved to prevent deterioration.

So how is the priceless pair in the Smithsonian preserved? In the fall of 2016, the Smithsonian launched its second ever Kickstarter campaign called “Keep them Ruby,” with a goal to fund the conservation and display of the slippers. The project was incredibly successful and gained more than 6,450 backers.

Check out this video for a behind the scenes looks at how the Smithsonian is keeping the shoes sparkling.

Other interesting facts about the Smithsonian’s ruby slippers:

  • The slippers were fashioned from a manufactured pair shoes, and in 1938 the cost of making a pair of the ruby slippers was estimated to be about $15. Fast forward to an auction in 2011, a pair of the shoes used in the film sold for more than $2 million!
  • The museum is aware the pair of slippers does not match. The heel caps, inner sole grips, and other details are slightly mismatched between the two shoes. The base of the shoes also indicates they are different. The right shoe reads “#1 Judy Garland” and the left displays “#6 Judy Garland.”
  • The slippers have orange felt adhered to the bottoms to muffle the sound of Garland’s steps as she danced on the yellow brick road in the film.

Dorothy’s slippers are just one of the many famous items you can see firsthand during a visit to the Smithsonian while on a WorldStrides Washington, D.C. program.

In 2018, WorldStrides became the approved domestic educational travel provider of the Smithsonian. This blog is part of a series, “Hey Smithsonian!” where we ask our friends at the venerable institution questions that dig deeper into this special place and all it has to offer!

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