The Smithsonian Wants YOU (to Donate Your Money to Restore Dorothy's Ruby Slippers)

Photo via AP Images.
Photo via AP Images.

One of the more popular items in the Smithsonian’s vast collection of Americana is a pair of Dorothy’s original ruby slippers from the classic 1939 MGM musical. Now the museum is working on a conservation effort, and they’d love for you to chip in on the bill.


The Washington Post reports that the Smithsonian has launched a Kickstarter to raise money for its efforts to conserve the famous shoes, which the campaign explains “need immediate conservation care and a new, state-of-the-art display case, in order to slow their deterioration and protect them from environmental harm.” Look—these shoes are old as hell and it’s not like MGM had them made to hold up beyond production. And frankly, it’s showing:

Now in their eighth decade, the shoes are fragile and actively deteriorating. Even to the naked eye the damage is quite obvious: the color has faded and the slippers appear dull and washed-out. The coating on the sequins that give the shoes their hallmark ruby color is flaking off its gelatin base. Some threads that hold sequins in place have broken.

Their goal: $300,000. They’ve sweetened the deal with rewards like tote bags and posters by William Ivey Long, a Tony Award-winning costumer designer. The Kickstarter page explains the crowdfunding approach:

Federal appropriations provide the foundation of the Smithsonian’s operating budget and support core functions, such as building operations and maintenance, and safeguarding the collections. Projects like the Ruby Slippers aren’t covered by our federal appropriations, which means we can only undertake them if we can fund them some other way.

Hence, when they want to do something specific, they’ve got to go fundraising. In the late 1990s, for instance, Polo Ralph Lauren contributed millions to help restore and preserve the flag that inspired the national anthem. Last year was the first time they tried Kickstarter, raising $719,779 toward the cost of conserving Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit.

Senior Editor at Jezebel, specializing in books, royals, romance novels, houses, history, and the stories we tell about domesticity and femininity. Resident Windsor expert.



The Wizard of Oz was a huge deal to me as a kid, and seeing the ruby slippers in real life was like experiencing the death of a dream. They’re...underwhelming. I didn’t expect real rubies, or anything, but certainly more than ordinary sequins. Your middle school friend’s mom with access to a Michael’s, two free afternoons, and a very modest amount of craftiness could have produced a pair of these shoes that were just as good or better.

This is not to say they shouldn’t be restored - they should! - I just thought it was interesting and perhaps a bit ironic how seeing the real ruby slippers was very much like pulling back the curtain to see a simple old man playing at being something magnificent.