Oz in the News 11.1.16

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Consumerism and the Wizard of Oz What’s culture worth? The Smithsonian Institution is asking people to fork over $300,000 for a Kickstarter campaign to restore and preserve Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. The film, which was based on the bestselling children’s books of L. Frank Baum, famously focuses on a heroic journey home, a place that no number of dollars or possessions can every replace. Ironic, then, that Baum himself had another interest—consumerism. In fact, the author was working on a book about decorating dry goods windows while he worked on Oz, a work that Stuart Culver says sheds light on the children’s book that birthed the film. Culver traces connections between Baum’s 1893 trip to the Chicago World’s Fair—echoed in the carnival barking of the Wizard of Oz and The Emerald City, which is built on false fronts and façades—and Baum’s book, The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows. Baum used the fair as a way to teach would-be window dressers about the theater of show windows. He encouraged people to decorate with a showman’s touch, using objects to tell a story and creating illusion with the help of mirrors, mannequins, and mechanics.

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