Save the Ruby Slippers!

Originally published at:

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Only half a million dollars?

retrieves imaginary checkbook


Great movie, have a really hard time asking 500k for this.

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Wouldn’t it be much, much cheaper just to make a perfect replica of the pair of slippers?

The movie’s costume designer altered commercially manufactured shoes by dying them red and attaching a red netting covered with sequins.

Yes, I admit that these are culturally significant, but they’re also almost eighty years old, and not really designed to last anywhere near that long.

I say that we let these slippers die their natural death, and use the money that they would spend, instead of preserving these against the inescapable tide of entropy, to display something else culturally significant that would otherwise be sitting in storage.

The movie will endure, whether or not the slippers themselves do.


These are already a replica. The real slippers were made of text, but by the time you’ve read the words they’ve already slipped into the past.


Not a very good replica, then, as there were no ruby slippers in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Perhaps you’re thinking of the silver shoes.


You caught me. My entire facade of lies is crumbling around my ears.


That must be loud.


Actual artifacts from the past are important. Some people get a feeling of spirituality from a church or temple, others of us get that feeling from objects that were there.
Real artifacts matter. I am writing this in a room full of paintings. The largest of them is an image of “The Assumption of the Virgin” painted in Spain in the late 1670s. It is big and dark, and smells slightly of smoke. It was painted in the twilight of the Spanish empire.The country was ruled by a mentally and physically feeble Habsburg idiot. The Inquisition was near it’s peak, and the Ottoman empire was moving towards Vienna and defeat, but those seeking solace in the image still feared the armies of Islam (Mary stands on the Crescent moon), and the Plague.
A reproduction would have brighter colors, and be much less delicate. And cheaper. But it would not be the same. At least not to me.


Interestingly, the film itself was printed on a similar highly-flammable (sometimes explosive) stock - known as guncotton when used in munitions.

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I guess I can appreciate that.

I don’t really grok feeling a connection to an object because of its history. I suppose that’s why I’ve never been one for museums. But I can understand having a connection to an object: I get like that with objects that I have a personal connection to: things I’ve actually held and being back memories. A bottlecap, from the time I met my cousin from Poland. A wooden car that my father helped me make. Stuff like that.

So, while I can see the appeal of having a piece of history preserved, I guess it’s just not my thing.

Half a million for a movie prop? Sure, why not. Haven’t got anything else worthwhile we could be spending that on. [looks around] Nope, nothing I can see.

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I read all the Oz books when I was a kid (thank you, small town librarians, for not chucking or archiving the older children’s books). I watch the film every chance I get. I quote from it on a fairly regular basis.

Yet I can’t help thinking that half a million could be spent better elsewhere. Like, I don’t know, how about making sure other kids from Kansas/the Midwest/depressed farm communities don’t have to suffer the harshness and unacknowledged poverty Dorothy did? The entire story is an economic parable after all.

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Federal funds do not come close to covering the operating budget of the Smithsonian Institution. Only 60% of its funding is federal; the rest comes from a variety of donors and revenue from Smithsonian Enterprises. A large percentage of the staff is made up of contractors (with no benefits at all) and trust employees (who are employed only as long as an earmarked fund lasts, and who have benefits but no federal status). While the funds for the slippers will employ a conservator or two, I’m not too keen on so much money being spent on a single object like this.

Also, the kickstarter is seeking 300k, not half a million.

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