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Grand Rapids Judy Garland Museum fundraising to buy back ruby slippers

Judy Garland Children's Discovery Museum sign next to the highway
Chelsey Perkins
/
KAXE
The Judy Garland Children's Discovery Museum in Grand Rapids, was the site from which one of the four remaining pairs of the ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz" was stole in 2005. The U.S. Justice Department announced the indictment of a Grand Rapids area man on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

"The Wizard of Oz" prop was infamously stolen from the museum nearly two decades ago. For the museum to get them back, it must win an auction, likely costing millions.

GRAND RAPIDS — The Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids kicked off a fundraising campaign to bring Dorothy’s ruby slippers back.

The slippers were infamously stolen from the museum in 2005 and after nearly two decades of mystery, two arrests were made in the case in the past year.

The movie props are among four remaining original pairs from The Wizard of Oz, worn by actress Judy Garland, who lived in Grand Rapids as a child.

Janie Heitz, executive director of the museum, said this fundraising effort is a bit different since it’s for an auction, so they’ll have to keep their collected totals under wraps.

"It'll be a pretty silent campaign on the dollar amount we've raised, but the public campaign we want people to know about, and we're excited about it and looking for donors," she said.

The FBI says it has recovered a pair of ruby slippers worn in <em>The Wizard of Oz</em> that were stolen from a Minnesota museum in 2005. One of several pairs of slippers worn by Judy Garland in the movie are seen here in 1996.
Ed Zurga
/
AP
The FBI says it has recovered a pair of ruby slippers worn in The Wizard of Oz that were stolen from a Minnesota museum in 2005. One of several pairs of slippers worn by Judy Garland in the movie are seen here in 1996.

The State Legislature set aside $100,000 in Legacy Amendment money for buying back the slippers as a way of preserving the state’s heritage. But the shoes are expected to fetch $3 million or more at auction in December.

The museum previously estimated it suffered $87,000 in revenue loss because of lost admission and membership fees in the four years after the burglary. Museum officials also said they lost public trust while insurers appeared to blame the museum for the theft and collectors would not lend memorabilia.

Heitz said bringing the slippers back to the museum is the main focus right now, but they are also thinking ahead about what it will look like if they’re back, including preventing another theft.

"If we get the slippers obviously security will be the number one priority for us," she said. "I think we'll be able to make space for the slippers in our museum as is, with the goal to eventually upgrade our parking lot, potentially have a separate area for the slippers themselves."

She said Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers would provide a draw for tourists while they’re visiting Grand Rapids.

"Just trying to find something unique and different in this area while you're here," Heitz said.

Chelsey Perkins spent the first 15 years of her journalism career as a print journalist, primarily as a newspaper reporter and editor. In February 2023, she accepted a role as News Director of KAXE in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, where she's building a new local newsroom at the station.