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Smithsonian Mounts $300,000 Kickstarter to Repair Dorothy's Red Slippers

Updated

Brian To/FilmMagic

It’s all that heel-tapping what done it.

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., which for almost 40 years has housed one of the iconic pairs of ruby red slippers Judy Garland wore as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the restoration of the shoes — to the tune of $300,000.

It’s a move that’s not without precedent for the Smithsonian. In 2015, it pulled in nearly $720,000 from 9,477 donors to conserve and display space suits from Neil Armstrong and Alan Shepard.

The money the Smithsonian raises for the shoes will go to a rigorous analysis of their composition and research into how best to display them. Originally commercially manufactured shoes that were dyed red and covered with a sequin-spangled red netting, they’ve deteriorated in the intervening years.

Richard Barden, the Institution employee spearheading the effort, says that the shoes are made of at least 12 materials, each of which presents its own set of challenges to preserve. “We take each material individually and do research to work out what the best environment is,” he told The New York Times. “Do we need to put these in an oxygen free case, for example?”

Braden estimates that seven Smithsonian employees — two conservators and five scientists — will work on the slippers for nine to 12 months. Independent designers will construct the display case.

At least seven and up to 10 pairs of shoes were made for the film. One pair was stolen, and another pair sold recently at auction will be featured at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum scheduled to open in Los Angeles. The Smithsonian’s pair came to the organization in 1979 from an anonymous donor. Interestingly, they’re a mismatched pair: One reads “#1 Judy Garland” and the other “#6.”

The project seems to be working: As of this writing, the Kickstarter has raised $205,000 so far, with 27 days to go.