There’s no place like home: Ruby slippers from ‘Wizard of Oz’ could find permanent residence in Minnesota

Published 8:49 am Wednesday, March 20, 2024

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By Dana Ferguson, Minnesota Public Radio News

The bright red slippers that helped bring Dorothy home from the Land of Oz could be purchased by the Minnesota Historical Society and put on display at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids under a proposal up for consideration in the Legislature.

The Senate Environment, Climate and Legacy Committee on Tuesday considered the proposal to set aside an unspecified amount of money from Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment fund to buy the shoes and require that they be on public display. Federal prosecutors have estimated the slippers’ market value to be about $3.5 million.

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“If we don’t take time to preserve this history, it could be lost to a private collector who puts them in their basement for many years to come,” bill author Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, said.

“We feel that with the history and culture behind these, and this fund that we have that we’re so fortunate to have in Minnesota, the Legacy Fund, that we have a real opportunity to make these available for public viewing in perpetuity.”

The slippers were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in 2005. A federal grand jury has indicted two people with the theft.

The conversation comes a day after FBI officials on Monday announced that last month, they’d secretly returned the slippers of “The Wizard of Oz” fame to their owner Michael Shaw, who said he plans to sell them in an auction in December.

The committee could include the proposal as part of a larger Legacy bill later this spring. Committee leaders said they have a $6 million target for the broader package of projects, so the $3.5 million price tag could be a tough financial lift.

“Judy Garland, immortalized as Dorothy Gale in the beloved ‘Wizard of Oz,’ skipped her way down the yellow brick road in several pairs of ruby slippers during the filming,” Judy Garland Museum Executive Director Janie Heitz said.

“There is a pair looking for a home right now. What better way to celebrate Judy Garland’s life and legacy … than by having them at The Judy Garland Museum?”

Judy Garland Museum founding director and curator John Kelsch told the panel that bringing the slippers to Minnesota would be “rocket fuel” for the state’s tourism marketing campaign.