Dorothy’s ruby red slippers are now temporarily nestled near NASA’s rockets and Charles Lindbergh’s plane in a new Smithsonian exhibit that has the blessing of two original munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz.”
More than 150 well-known objects from the National Museum of American History collection are on public display in the “Treasures of American History” exhibit across the National Mall at the National Air and Space Museum.
Leaders of the popular history museum, which closed in September for a major renovation and will reopen in summer 2008, wanted to keep at least part of the massive 3 million piece collection on view.
Ruth Duccini and Jerry Maren, two of the munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz,” helped open the new exhibit last week.
“The city council of Munchkinland nominated me to be part of the welcoming committee for Dorothy,” said Maren, 87, who was 17 when he played one of the three “Lollipop Kids.” He wore a blue baseball cap that said “The Lollipop Kid,” and carried a huge green and purple lollipop over his shoulder.
“We wish to welcome you to Smithsonian Institute,” he sang to the tune of the “Lollipop Guild” song in the 1939 film.
“It’s just an honor to see this,” said Duccini, 88, as she stood near a display of the slippers worn by Judy Garland and the rarely seen scarecrow suit worn by Ray Bolger in the legendary movie. She said she doesn’t watch “The Wizard of Oz” very often because “most of the people I knew are gone already. It’s kind of sad.”
The slippers, scarecrow costume and a bulky Technicolor camera used to film “The Wizard of Oz” are in the first of the exhibit’s four galleries. The Creativity and Innovation section also includes one of the oldest known pairs of Levi Strauss jeans and Thomas Edison’s light bulb.
The American Biography section includes Jacqueline Kennedy’s inaugural gown, the robe worn by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she was sworn is as the first woman justice and Ray Charles’ tuxedo, among other famous relics.
“It’s very hard to choose a treasure when you go into the collection,” said Brent Glass, director of the National Museum of American History. “Each object is important in and of itself. It tells a whole story.”
Lincoln's top hat, Kermit the Frog
A portion of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the top hat Abraham Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated and the Greensboro, N.C., lunch counter where four black college students protested segregation by sitting down at the “whites-only” counter highlight the exhibit section called National Challenges. The lunch counter is elevated so visitors can see the scuff marks and chewing gum still stuck below the counter.
Kermit the Frog and other objects from television highlight the fourth section, American Identity.
Some of the Smithsonian’s newest acquisitions from Hurricane Katrina are on display for the first time in a case that will feature different objects every few months. Katrina artifacts include a piece of the failed levee wall from New Orleans, a rosary that provided solace to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lead forecaster Robert Ricks and a mailbox that was the only object left standing at a house destroyed in the storm.
Smithsonian curators are still trying to get in touch with owners of the mailbox, which is labeled “The Alexanders” and was found in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.
The central core of the history museum has been emptied, and heavy construction is scheduled to begin in December, Glass said. He said the Air and Space Museum was chosen for the temporary exhibit because a gallery was available and the space museum draws millions of visitors each year.
“There’s also a connection with some of the objects here,” he said, “especially in the area of innovation and creativity.”