The shoes, made famous in the 1939 musical film, are on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC
For almost 80 years, despite being in no way faithful to the literary version created by L Frank Baum, people all over the world have been charmed by the ruby slippers, the magical shoes worn by Dorothy Gale as she pays a visit to The Wizard of Oz. But now the slippers, arguably the most iconic piece of footwear ever committed to film, are at the centre of a $300,000 (€274,000) KickStarter campaign to preserve them for generations to come.
Put on permanent display more than three decades ago, an anonymous donor gifted the shoes to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. The best-known prop from the 1939 musical film starring Judy Garland, the ruby slippers are showing their age, their red colour having flaked off after years of sustained exposure to light and moisture.
Earlier this week, the Smithsonian launched a new fundraising drive to raise enough funds to allow experts to keep the shoes’ iconic redness from fading any more than it already has. The museum also hopes to construct a new display case that will constantly provide the right conditions to ensure that the kitten heels could kick their heels together and get Dorothy back to Kansas in the decades to come.
While all of the Smithsonian museums are funded by American taxpayers, public, private and corporate donations are often sought for ambitious projects not covered by its annual budget. In 2015, $720,000 was raised on Kickstarter in the Smithsonian’s first ever crowdsourcing campaign, with donations coming from across the world to aid in the conservation and preservation of astronaut Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit worn when mankind took its first steps on the moon.
“This particular pair of ruby slippers really belongs to the American people, and so we thought as we sought support that we would invite the public to join us on this journey to help preserve them for the next generation,” said museum spokesperson Melinda Machado.
The Smithsonian has also pledged to use donations to research the ideal conditions in which to store the shows. The plans for the new case include filling it with a gas other than oxygen, as well as strict controls over temperature, humidity and barometric pressure.
“That case becomes very expensive to build, and we want to build one that will be efficient and low-maintenance so we’re doing the best for the slipper and keeping our costs as low as possible,” said Richard Barden, the head of conservation at the Museum of Natural History.
Two days into the pledge drive and the Smithsonian’s ruby slippers campaign has currently raised almost $140,000.