Ruby Slippers Going Back on View (photos)

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Julia and Sarah, both age 8, from Ellicott City Md., admire the Ruby Slippers on their first day back on October 19. Photo by Jeff Malet.

Following a privately funded, 18-month conservation effort, one of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s iconic pieces of Americana, a pair of sequin-covered ruby slippers from the 1939 movie classic “The Wizard of Oz,” will be back on public display starting Friday, Oct. 19.

On view in the museum’s newly renovated third-floor west wing in the Ray Dolby Gateway to American Culture, the slippers are part of a new display of historic artifacts placed ahead of a major exhibition, “Entertaining America,” scheduled to open in 2020.

At least seven pairs of ruby slippers were made for “The Wizard of Oz.” Four pairs are known to still exist, according to museum conservator Richard Barden and entertainment curator Ryan Lintelman. This pair, size 5, worn by actress Judy Garland, were donated to the Smithsonian anonymously in 1979.

The slippers will be featured in one of a series of eight installations centered on sound, stadium and screen.

The first display, titled America’s Listening, focuses on the public’s experience with recorded sound, including five of the innovations that kept them listening: Thomas Edison’s phonograph, Alexander Graham Bell’s graphophone, Emile Berliner’s gramophone, Ray Dolby’s noise reduction system and Apple’s iPod. This display leads to the Culture Wing’s landmark object: a 14-foot stained-glass window, one of four that originally graced the tower of the Victor Company’s headquarters in Camden, New Jersey. Its image of Nipper, the dog listening to his master’s recorded voice, became the Recording Corporation of America’s trademark image.

Other objects on display include items from the museum’s musical instrument collections, a red Yankee Stadium ticket booth from 1923, Elisabeth Moss’s costume from “The Handmaid’s Tale” and electro house musician Steve Aoki’s turntable.

The new Hall of Music, overlooking the Washington Monument, emphasizes how central live performances are to the cultural experience. Two adjacent lounges feature a display of virtual landscapes from classic video games. Vivid mural art from the Washington, D.C., studio of No Kings Collective “will bring creativity, color and patterns to illustrate the concept of American culture.”

The museum will hold a number of events over the weekend to celebrate the return of the ruby slippers, including a showing of the film (tickets required). Guests are encouraged to dress up in Oz-inspired costumes.

View Jeff Malet’s photos from an Oct. 17 preview, and the Oct. 19 public grand opening, of objects at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History by clicking on the photo icons below.

 

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