There’s No Place Like Conservation Lab: The Wizard of Oz Ruby Slippers Scheduled for Maintenance

Smithsonian Institution Ruby Slippers
Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

American popular culture’s most recognizable pair of shoes were removed from display and went into the Smithsonian’s conservation lab for some much-needed repairs on February 23. The famed ruby slippers, worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz, will return to the Smithsonian Museum of American History display cases on April 5, where they have been featured on a nearly continuous basis since being anonymously donated to the museum in 1979. The shoes will be a part of a new exhibition entitled, “American Stories.”

Originally, the shoes were not supposed to be kept for posterity nor be the iridescent red color for which they are famous. In fact, the shoes designed by the film’s costume designer Gilbert Adrian, were intended to be used solely for the movie. Most film fashion props are just used for the short duration of a shoot, and not showcased for several decades afterward. During an earlier conservation treatment, it was discovered through tests that the shoes’ famous red sequins were made of gelatin, an organic material that would be damaged if cleaned with most cleaning solvents. Smithsonian conservators decided that their best course of action would be to use cotton dipped in ice water to complete the tedious process of cleaning each sequin individually.

PortaScope Digital Microscope In both L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel, from which the film was adapted, and early variations of Noel Langley’s screenplay, the shoes were originally intended to be silver. However, with the advent of technicolor film, the shoes’ hue was changed prior to filming in an effort to catch the eyes of moviegoers. During the conservation treatment, the original silver color of the shoes was discovered after being examined with a hand-held microscope. Conservators also found a netting underneath the bright red sequins that originally allowed the film’s costume designers to stitch those sequins to the silver slippers. This netting was added to the shoes in an effort to make the process of stitching the sequins to the shoes easier.

Similar conservation projects could be accomplished with the following tools and equipment from University Products: precision miniature fiber-tipped applicators, stainless steel conservation work trays, and PortaScope digital microscopes.

Movie Poster Collecting

movie poster collectingAccording to the all-knowing Wikipedia, today, on November 28th in 1907, Louis B. Mayer (later on – the second “M” in the MGM motion picture studio conglomerate), opened his first movie theater in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

The movie business changed a lot since then, including the movie posters. In the times long before Facebook “like” buttons and endless TV commercials, posters were designed to intrigue vintage movie poster collecting and archival storagepotential customers and entice them to come and watch the new cinematic offering. Of course, they varied in quality and style, ranging from one-of-a-kind hand-pained masterpieces to kitschy colorful printed productions.  Movie poster collecting can be fun and rewarding, even if you don’t have any sentimental vintage movie poster collecting and archival storageattachment to the movies they represent. Vintage movie posters can benefit from being stored flat and protected by archivally safe enclosures and/or archival quality boxes. They can become fragile and brittle over time and some might require repair, using pressure sensitive Document Repair Tape, which is removable and gentle on paper.

You can learn more about movie posters and collecting them, as well as view some outstanding collections of vintage motion picture posters, lobby cards and rare photos online:
Movie Poster Collection at Library of Congress
Movie Posters and Prints at Collectors Weekly
WalterFilm Online Vintage Poster/Photo Museum