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'Oprah': Next best place to home

While Smithsonian is under construction, Dorothy's slippers and other treasures will be on Winfrey's show.

January 23, 2008|Jacqueline Trescott | Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- The Smithsonian is taking Dorothy's ruby slippers down the yellow brick road to Oprah-land.

The slippers and several other iconic samples of American culture will be featured on "The Oprah Winfrey Show's" segment on treasures today.

Other Smithsonian items to get the Oprah treatment are boxing gloves from heavyweight champion Joe Louis and from the film "Rocky."

All of the artifacts are coming from the National Museum of American History, which is closed for renovation and has a temporary space at the National Air and Space Museum. The website on that showcase provided a shopping list for Winfrey's staff.

"It is an opportunity to reach a large audience and talk about the value of what we do at American History, what the Smithsonian does and what museums do," Brent Glass, the history museum's director, said this week. "It is rare for a museum to reach that kind of audience" -- about 7 1/2 million people daily.

The slippers were Winfrey's first choice "because of what they mean to America and Oprah," said Melinda Machado, a museum spokeswoman. "The part that resonates with her is when Glenda tells Dorothy, you always had the power in you to get home."

Along with the slippers, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem and the collection of first ladies' gowns are the museum's most popular attractions.

The items are being shipped to Chicago on a commercial flight, with the expenses picked up by Harpo, Winfrey's company, Glass said.

Each artifact has a special carrying case, some of which were designed during a 1996 Smithsonian national traveling show. Glass said the museum follows a strict protocol of packing and escorting the items but declined to elaborate.

The appearance on "Oprah" was an unexpected invitation. "Part of our overall strategy since the museum is closed is to remind people we are still around," Glass said.

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