To save Wizard of Oz ruby slippers, there's no place like Kickstarter

Wizard of Oz ruby slippers: The Smithsonian has launched a crowdfunding campaign to restore the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in 'The Wizard of Oz.' 

Reed Saxon/AP/File
The sequin-covered ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in 'The Wizard of Oz' are seen at the offices of Profiles in History in Calabasas, Calif.

There's no place like ... Kickstarter? 

Nearly 80 years after Dorothy's ruby slippers sent her back to Kansas, the Smithsonian Institution has launched an effort to preserve the iconic shoes seen in "The Wizard of Oz." A Kickstarter campaign with the hashtag #KeepThemRuby aims to raise $300,000 to restore the heels, which have lived at the National Museum of American History since 1979, and build them a new, state-of-the-art display case. 

"Movie costumes and props are made quickly and cheaply, to last only for the brief duration of the shoot, not forever," the Smithsonian writes on the Kickstarter page. "Now in their eighth decade, the shoes are fragile and actively deteriorating." 

This is not the first time the Smithsonian has turned to crowdfunding to save a piece of American history. Last year, the institution raised $700,000 on Kickstarter to preserve, display, and digitize the iconic A-7L pressure suit worn by Neil Armstrong during his walk on the moon 47 years ago. As Lisa Suhay reported for The Christian Science Monitor at the time: 

This National Air and Space Museum project, run as a partnership between the larger Smithsonian Institution and Kickstarter, also marks a new direction for museums and other cultural institutions which are hoping to gain funding via a series of campaigns in partnership with the website.

Kickstarter has helped raised money for a host of scientific and museum partnerships, such as Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy of Arts in London (live right now), +POOL, which plans to build a floating pool in NYC's East River, Bill Nye’s LightSail from the Planetary Society, and Andrew Kuo at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. The Smithsonian's campaign is Kickstarter's biggest one yet.

Crowdfunding as a way to raise money for such projects is "very appealing to us," the Smithsonian's director of digital philanthropy at the time, Yoonhyung Lee, told the Monitor, "because we can go back to the Kickstarter platform to tap this audience, again and again, where they already are, instead of trying to force them into traditional fundraising channels." 

While the Smithsonian receives federal funding for its operating budget and core functions, such as building operations and maintenance and safeguarding the collections, projects such as restoring the ruby slippers aren't covered by federal appropriations, according to the Kickstarter page.

"The Smithsonian receives 70 percent of its appropriations from the federal government and that amount covers staff salaries, building support and maintenance, and not much more," Cathleen Lewis, curator of international space programs and spacesuits at the National Air and Space Museum, told last year. "It has been a very long time since we have been able to use the appropriations for programming, exhibits and special projects."

The campaign to save Dorothy's slippers, launched Monday, had raised $36,000 as of Tuesday morning, with 29 days left to donate.

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