Mar 20, 2024 - News

Minnesota bill aims to bring Dorothy's ruby red slippers back to the state

A pair of Judy Garland's ruby slippers were stolen from the museum in 2005 and recovered in 2018. Photo: Caroline Yang/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Minnesota lawmakers are weighing whether there's really no place like home for Dorothy's ruby red slippers.

State of play: A bill proposed at the state Legislature would authorize the Minnesota Historical Society to purchase a pair of sparkling pumps from the "Wizard of Oz," nearly two decades after they were stolen from a Minnesota museum.

Why it matters: The recently recovered slippers, one of just four pairs that Judy Garland wore in the classic film, are set to go up for auction later this year.

  • Boosters say bringing them back to the late actor's hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, will protect public access to an important piece of cinematic history and drive tourism.

What they're saying: "If we don't take time to preserve this history, it could be lost to a private collector, who puts it in their basement for many years to come," Sen. Justin Eichorn (R-Grand Rapids) told the Senate Environment, Climate, and Legacy Committee on Tuesday.

Catch up fast: The FBI recovered the slippers in 2018 β€” more than 20 years after they disappeared from the Judy Garland Children's Museum.

The catch: Snagging the slippers probably won't be cheap. The FBI estimates their value at $3.5 million. A recently announced world tour ahead of the auction could drive up the price.

  • Eichorn, whose bill has a blank appropriation line for now, acknowledged they "don't quite know what the price could potentially be yet." He's hoping approval will allow the state to negotiate with the owner.

What we're hearing: Janie Heitz, executive director of the Judy Garland Children's Museum, said the tale of the slippers' theft and recovery is already attracting more visitors to Grand Rapids.

  • Upcoming documentaries β€” and a possible feature film β€” could drive even more interest.

Between the lines: Heitz said the institution is also seeking funds via a capital investment package for security, parking, and other upgrades aimed at creating a "state-of-the-art museum experience."

What's next: The proposal was set aside for possible inclusion in a bigger spending bill.

  • "I'm hoping you can be the wizard of St. Paul and make sure we have this included," Eichorn told the chair.
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