Smithsonian Launches Kickstarter to Save Historic Ruby Slippers

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images / AFP/Getty Images

Few movie props are as iconic as the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz (1939), but even cinematic treasures aren’t immune to the ravages of time. According to the Associated Press, the Smithsonian Institution—which owns one of the only surviving pairs of the shoes—has launched a Kickstarter campaign to conserve Judy Garland’s fancy footwear for a new era of museumgoers.

The MGM Studios prop department made Garland multiple pairs of the red sequined slippers, and in 1979 an anonymous donor gave one to the National Museum of American History. Today, the shoes are 80 years old, and badly in need of a little TLC. Their hue is dull, the sequins are flaking, the felt soles are battered, and they’re also beginning to fray. The Smithsonian wants to raise $300,000 for conservation efforts, and to construct a high-tech museum display case that simulates the optimal light, humidity, and temperature conditions to keep the ruby slippers bright and shiny.

The Smithsonian Institution is federally funded, but government money only covers about 70 cents of every dollar it needs to maintain its vast network of museums and research centers. The institution relies on private and corporate contributions for the rest, and they recently turned to crowdfunding. In 2015, the institution launched its first Kickstarter—a $700,000 campaign to preserve, digitize, and display the spacesuit Neil Armstrong wore during his historic moonwalk. Now, they're hoping that a similar effort will save the slippers.

"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 spokeswoman Melinda Machado in a statement quoted by the AP.

As of Wednesday, October 19, the Smithsonian's Kickstarter had raised more than $140,000—meaning it will likely reach its $300,000 goal (and then some) by the fundraiser's end on Wednesday, November 16. Contributors who pledge $10 or more will receive a The Wizard of Oz-themed gift, ranging from posters, to tote bags, to a lunch and group tour with a Smithsonian curator.

You can learn more in the Kickstarter campaign video below.

[h/t Associated Press]

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