The OZ Museum in Wamego, Ks., conjures the world of the Wizard of OZ, which began when L. Frank Baum published the book in 1900.
The museum spotlights 2,000 artifacts, pulled from more than 24,000 treasures that rotate through the vintage storefront-turned-museum along Wamego’s Lincoln Street.
About 70 percent of the artifacts are from the collection of Friar Johnpaul Cafiero OFM, who began collecting OZ memorabilia as a boy and carried on for 50 years.
Cafiero and his siblings watched the movie on TV every year and dressed as the characters for Halloween—he was the Lion—and their costumes are in the museum.
Rare, original artifacts
Most items are spinoffs associated with Baum’s 14 OZ books, the 1939 classic MGM film starring Judy Garland, and Broadway shows “The Wiz” and “Wicked.” But there are a few original artifacts displayed:
- A first edition of “The Wizard of OZ,” which sold out by word of mouth. During its first 56 years in print, the book sold more than four million copies. “They were the Harry Potter books of their day,” said guide Reade Wohler. The heroine Dorothy Gale is often cited as the first feminist role model, boldly heading out, solving her problems and coming home again.
Baum once said “…to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one’s heat and brings its own rewards. I hope my book will succeed in that way—that the children will like it.” The book fell out of copyright in 1956, so myriad writers have built upon the themes of what is often called “the first American fairy tale.”
- Two tiny flying monkey figures used in the movie sequence with the Wicked Witch of the West that has terrified generations of children. Marcel Delgado sculpted the miniatures, about four inches high. The monkeys are rubber, and some had pipe-cleaner tails. The museum’s two props were found along the side of a road. Some of the monkeys were destroyed in a warehouse fire, and only four are known to exist. The OZ Museum in Wamego has two, and perhaps the only monkey extant with both wings and a tail.
- Suede gloves worn by actress Nita Krebs in 1948. She was a member of the Lullabye League and a Munchkin in the movie, who famously dashed out to urge Dorothy to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”
- A passport used by the late Ray Bolger, who played the Scarecrow. The story is that Baum was frightened by a scarecrow when he was a boy. This is the passport Bolger used until his death, with stamps from the United Kingdom and Iran. Bolger’s family gave it to Friar Johnpaul.
The museum sponsors the annual OZtoberFest, which draws Baum relatives and some of the authors continuing the Oz genre. This year’s OZtoberFest is Sept. 26.
Sadly, all the Munchkins from the movie are dead, but many of them, such as Margaret Pellegrini, left their hand and footprints and signatures in cement outside and inside the museum.
When you go
The 2015 OZtoberFest is Sept. 26, with an OZ Costume Contest for all ages, Emerald City Stage, Munchkinland for children and a Yellow Brick Road Bike Ride. The festival takes over the Road to Oz, a.k.a. Kansas Highway 99 and Lincoln Avenue in Wamego.
The OZ Museum.