Ever since Judy Garland first sand Somewhere Over the Rainbow, she captured people’s hearts. Her voice drew in crowds and packed theatres. The story of The Wizard of Oz is one of those things that everyone has a connection to.
The Ruby Red Slippers are one of the most asked about exhibits in the Smithsonian, dedicating a whole room to them.
Seeing as that Judy Garland was a Minnesota Native, it’s only fitting that you visit the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids Minnesota.
Visiting the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids Minnesota has always been a dream of mine. When I first heard that such a place existed, I knew I wanted to visit.
When I heard that Minnesota had a pair of Ruby Slippers, I wanted to see it more than ever.
The only problem was, the museum was a little out of my bubble. Convincing my family to drive 3hrs to see it would take some special planning. Thankfully on my Northern Loop Adventure, I would be going right near there.
The life of Judy Garland
Her story is told from the point of tragedy. She started off as Francis Glum, the third child of Frank and Ethel Gumm. Growing up in Grand Rapids MN, her parents owned a theatre and often had their daughters entertain party guests in their home.
When she was around four they decided to move to Los Angeles. Judy was 13 when she caught a big break after someone heard her sing with her sisters.
They told the head of MGM that they had to see her. After listening to her sing one song, she was signed. Her first big movie would be one of the biggest hits, the Wizard of Oz.
Hollywood in the 1930s was a different world than today. Instead of auditioning for roles, you sign a contract with a studio. At that point, the studio controls your life.
They controlled everything about you. From what roles you take, to what you eat, to who you date. You are there’s to mold. The demanding schedule is what started her addiction to pills.
Her mother first started given them to her and the studio kept it going. Those pills and her struggle with addiction are what ended her life early at the age of 42.
If you are interested in learning more about her life, you need to read the book, Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir.
The Judy Garland Museum
The Judy Garland Museum was founded in 1975 by Jackie Dingmann to honor the star’s legacy. The museum didn’t open until 2003.
After purchasing her childhood home, an adjacent building was put up next door to hold some of the artifacts. Inside you’ll find things like dresses, shoes, contracts, and other pieces celebrating the star’s life.
From the Wizard of Oz collection, you’ll see the original carriage used in the “Horse of a Different Color” scene. The carriage was once owned by President Lincoln.
There is also a Judy Garland test dress from her role as Dorthey, a Winkie Spear, and an original version of the script all on display.
Judy Garlands Home
Seeing childhood homes is often a disappointment. So what if someone lived here. In most cases, a home is just a home. Especially when you consider that often things have changed so much.
I really wasn’t expecting anything walking in. It wasn’t long before I started to get chills. Standing in her old living room, we realized this was where it all started.
The staircase is where she and her sisters would come running down and put on performances for friends and neighbors.
After touring the Home, if you have younger children head into the Children’s museum portion, or head outside the house and enjoy the cutout park, and decide what character you want to be or follow the yellow brick road and have your own adventure.
Where are the Ruby Slippers?
One fascinating piece of the museum is the Ruby Slipper replica display. This wasn’t always there. In 2005 a pair of shoes nicknamed the Traveling Shoes, owned by Michael Shaw was on display for the season.
As the season was coming to a close, the pair was stolen. Who took them is still under investigation. The good news is, the FBI recovered the slippers.
It’s been a couple of years and they are still being held in FBI evidence rooms. I’m hoping they will be freed soon, but I do not expect them to return to the museum any time soon.
They were just on loan to the museum as a special exhibit and not part of their collection. If you wish to see a set of Ruby Slippers, your best bet is to head to the Smithsonian in Washington DC and see the pair called “The Peoples Shoes”.
You’ll find a few other pieces of Oz movie memorabilia there. There are two other pairs of shoes known to exist. They are both in private collectors’ hands.
If you wish to no know more about the slippers and their history, you can listen to the podcast “No Place like Home”.
Would I go back?
The Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids Minnesota is one of those places I’ll never forget. I loved the Wizard of Oz growing up.
As a teenager, I got really into the behind-the-scenes of movies, and production elements. I loved getting to walk in and see it all come to life.
I was one of those people that snapped pictures of things like contracts while I was there just so I can pour over them in more detail.
The old age of Hollywood still fascinates me and the museum brought to life some of those elements. For more insight on the Wizard of Oz and some of the behind-the-scenes action, check out: The Making of The Wizard of Oz.