We’re Off to See the Wizard of Oz Museum
We loaded the camper, hooked up to the Jeep and took off at first light. We’re off to see the Wizard of Oz Museum (though we didn’t know it at the time). We headed south with only two stops in mind and no timeline, my kind of trip.
As we drove on Highway 75 through Kansas, my husband saw a billboard, “Want to go to the Evel Knievel Museum in Topeka?”
“Not so much,” and we laughed.
This simple question sparked a memory. I googled “Wizard of Oz Museum” and learned one of the largest privately-owned collections of memorabilia was less than an hour west on Highway 99. A slight detour, without the help of a twister, landed us in Wamego, Kansas, population 4,400. We were off to see the wizard!
80th Anniversary of Wizard of Oz Premiere
The children’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by Frank Baum and illustrated by W.W. Denslow, was originally published in 1900. By 1938, more than a million copies of the book had been printed. MGM Studios enchanted audiences with the release of the acclaimed musical in 1939. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the movie’s premiere, and interest has yet to dwindle.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
We found the Wizard of Oz Museum on the quaint main street of Wamego’s Lincoln Avenue. We skipped (in reality, I was the only one skipping) down the yellow brick road from City Park. Anticipation built as we saw the green and gold entrance to the museum that beckoned to come in, my pretties.
Dedicated to all things Oz, we were delighted to view stellar exhibits and more than 2,000 artifacts in this clean and well-organized setting. We spotted 1st edition Baum books, movie props, and costumes from the original Wizard of Oz film, and collectibles from 100 years of Oz history.
Favorite Wizard of Oz Museum Exhibits:
- W.W. Denslow’s 24 color illustrated pages from the 1st edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. (1900)
- Original movie production notes. (1939)
- The hand jeweled ruby slippers, covered in over 3,500 Swarovski crystals, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the making of the movie. (1989)
- Cookie jars depicting each character.
- A newly revealed eleven-foot tall exhibit boasting a castle guard with an original Winkie Spear from the movie.
The Wizard of Oz movie played in the theater while original movie posters marked its entrance. Three documentaries played continuously to share more information on this movie phenomenon including; a production from the Smithsonian, the Oz Museum, and an extra clip from the 75th anniversary of the film. (2014)
Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! Oh, My!
Photo opportunities of each Oz character were showcased in their dedicated space. Dorothy, dressed in her signature blue gingham dress, held her basket and beloved pooch, Toto. Black and white striped tights covered legs adorned with ruby slippers. Scarecrow sat pondering life’s woes on a bale of hay in the middle of a cornfield. The ferocious Lion perched next to a tree in the forest and seemingly waited for a belly rub. Tinman stood immobile, with an ax in hand, wishing a passerby would give him a squirt from the oil can.
With a turn to the left, we faced the Haunted Forest. The Wicked Witch of the West held her broom, with a flying monkey positioned by her side, as they consulted the crystal ball in her castle. We hopped into the State Fair hot air balloon basket for a picture. Last but not least, the illustrious, Glinda the Good Witch, stood in a field of poppies holding her wand.
Even though “there’s no place like home,” it was delightful to travel through memories of childhood.
Wizard of Oz Gift Shop
The gift shop offered a wide variety of Oz goodies. “Don’t make me unleash the flying monkeys” and “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” embellish items from cup and mugs to t-shirts and lunchboxes. Books and movies were available as well as games and jewelry. There was truly something for everyone. Items can also be ordered online.
Unfortunately, we’re off to see the wizard a week early for the 0Z-themed fall festival, OZtoberFest. This annual fall event brings together Oz-lovers from around the world with live music, costume contests, food, arts and crafts, and exclusive vendors. Special guests including passionate collectors, Oz historians, and authors, enjoy the small-town aspect of this huge festival! We will plan better to visit during next year’s festival.
History of the Wizard of Oz Museum
This excerpt from the museum’s website says it all:
So how did it all get started? Well, as Dorothy says, “there’s no place like home”. What words could be more appropriate when describing the dream of a small community that literally built a museum out of a rainbow’s notion? It took the brains of a small group of leaders, the heart for what L. Frank Baum began in 1900 as a simple children’s book, and the courage to take on the task of constructing a home for over 2,000 artifacts dating from 1900 to present day.
Yellow Brick Road
The museum opened in 2004 and has indeed rallied to present a fabulous showcase of all things Oz! Won’t you travel down the yellow brick road to check it out?
Favorite Book & Movie Tour
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