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We're Off to See the Wizard - At Maine's Farnsworth Art Museum
10/18/2013   Reported By: Jay Field

For the next five months, fans of the Wizard of Oz can head to Rockland for a unique look inside the classic 1939 film. The Wonderful World of Oz exhibit at the Farnsworth Art Museum features original props and costumes from the film and a eclectic array of memorabilia from the largest collection of Oz material in the world. As Jay Field reports, filmmaker Willard Carroll has been adding to his trove since childhood, and plans to open his own Oz museum on the grounds of his home in Camden.

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At its heart, it's a simple story, an American story. And here's what still gets Willard Carroll about the Wizard of Oz after all these years:

"The sort of pluckiness of a young girl who goes to a strange country, who manages to sort of bring together a sort of group of eccentrics in order to sort of save themselves, and to find in themselves what they already have," he says. "And I've always loved that second layer."

So much, it turns out, that Carroll began collecting artifacts inspired by the film. He was around 10.

"Proctor and Gamble, the soap company, used to do these little puppets that were attached to Top Job and Ivory Snow and I collected all of those," he says.

As he got older, and made some money in the film business, Carroll found he wasn't much interested in traditional investing. So he doubled down on his longtime Oz passion. Collecting via magazine ads gave way to E-Bay and memorabilia auctions at houses like Christie's and Southeby's.

A few years ago, after moving to Maine, Carroll and his partner, who own the collection together, approached the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland.

"And we came to them and said, 'We have this collection that's in Maine. We're living here now. Would you be interested in mounting this exhibit?'"

Two costumes sit on a platform at the entrance to the Wonderful World of Oz exhibit. "This is the most complete costume from the movie to survive - the Lollipop Guild Munchkin costume. It's everything. It's his booties. It's his stockings."

Carroll says he uses the costume to judge the accuracy of the color, whenever a new version of the film comes out on DVD or Blue Ray. "This has held its sort of vivid color quality. It was all made of felt," he says.

The exhibit is an eclectic mix from Carroll's vast collection: Vintage movie posters from each theatrical release of The Wizard of Oz. A series of wallpaper panels from the early 20th century, designed for kids' bedrooms. An OZ boardgame and playing cards. One of the few surviving, complete scripts from the film. And one famous hourglass.

"When I was a child, this was what I wanted from the movie. This was my Holy Grail," he says. Pinkish glitter fills the inside of the hourglass the witch used to threaten Dorothy.

Alexandra Doan, who lives in Lincolnville, listens as Carroll explains that the glitter is the only part of the famous prop that doesn't date back to the original film.

"I just know the movie from my childhood," Doan says. She came to the exhibit with a friend, after reading about it in a magazine. "I had no idea there were all these puzzles and these amazing masks and things that you could purchase back then."

In a couple years, the items in Willard Carroll's collection will have a permanent home in Camden. He's planning on building a national Oz museum inside a 5,000-square-foot workshop on his property, based on plans drawn up by a graduate student at the Rhode Island School of Design.

In the meantime, members of the public can go see the The Wonderful World of Oz exhibit at the Farnsworth through next March.

Learn more about the Farnsworth Art Museum's Wonderful World of Oz exhibit. 

Photo:  Jay Field


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