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Old 19 October 2016, 12:09 PM
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Witch Smithsonian launches Kickstarter for “Wizard of Oz” ruby slippers rehab

The Smithsonian is looking for help to cover the cost of rehabbing Hollywood’s most famous footwear.

Dorothy’s ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” are one of the most popular attractions at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History -- and apparently they’re in need of some repair.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/smithson...lippers-rehab/
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Old 19 October 2016, 12:56 PM
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Um . . . $300,000?

I understand how it can cost huge amounts of money to rehab an old oil painting, or a building facade. What on earth are they intending to do to a pair of slippers that's going to cost three hundred thousand dollars?
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Old 19 October 2016, 01:06 PM
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The Kickstarter doesn't say specifically, but I imagine a lot of that is going to be the cost of specialized labor or expertise and equipment (i.e. a climate controlled case, examination, etc.).

~Psihala
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Old 19 October 2016, 02:22 PM
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The fabric is probably rotting and needs to be reinforced to support the spangles. Those probably aren't made anymore, so a historical source needs to be found. All the work is going to be hand work, and fiddly hand work at that.

If I were paid $15 per hour for the work I did on my replica of my grandmother's wedding dress, I'd've earned almost $4,000 on the bead work alone, which was of a type that is fast and easy.

$300,000 for something like the slippers makes perfect sense to me.

Seaboe
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Old 19 October 2016, 05:16 PM
jimmy101_again jimmy101_again is offline
 
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My daughter worked this past summer for the state museum and spent weeks cleaning and restoring a pair of 150 year old beaded Indian moccasins (cleaned each bead individually, restitched the shoes, replaced a small amount of the leather, etc.). I think she would be stunned to hear that the sequin shoes would cost that much to restore. (Even more stunned to think what she could have charged for doing the moccasins.)
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Old 19 October 2016, 06:00 PM
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That approach might be acceptable for a state or county museum, but a national institution like the Smithsonian wouldn't even consider such an inauthentic repair.

They'll research the construction and state of deterioration of the slippers for months before any work at all is done and be doubly sure they know what their doing when anything is done.

Otherwise, they could just send someone to the nearest craft store for a bag of sequins and hire a competent cobbler and be done before the month is out -- and virtually ruin any credibility they had in the process.

~Psihala
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Old 19 October 2016, 08:54 PM
jimmy101_again jimmy101_again is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Psihala View Post
That approach might be acceptable for a state or county museum, but a national institution like the Smithsonian wouldn't even consider such an inauthentic repair.
Assuming alot there aren't you? A lowly State Museum can't be up to snuff with the Smithsonian? The repair was done by a trained anthropologist that specializes in artifact repair and stabilization. The repair/stabilization was authentic.

$300K is at least 3 person-years of a top flight professional restorer. The item is much less than 100 years old so period materials are likely still available.
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Old 19 October 2016, 09:31 PM
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Quote:
Assuming alot there aren't you? A lowly State Museum can't be up to snuff with the Smithsonian? The repair was done by a trained anthropologist that specializes in artifact repair and stabilization. The repair/stabilization was authentic.
You're right. I shouldn't have done that. I apologize to your daughter.

Quote:
$300K is at least 3 person-years of a top flight professional restorer. The item is much less than 100 years old so period materials are likely still available.
In that case, I'll yield to your expertise.

Please contact the Smithsonian and warn them that they are over-charging for the restoration. I'm sure you have better information than they do and that they will be most interested in hearing your reasoning for why its costing so much in time and resources to stabilize an 80 year old, custom made, one of a kind pair of shoes.

~Psihala
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Old 19 October 2016, 09:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Psihala View Post
The Kickstarter doesn't say specifically, but I imagine a lot of that is going to be the cost of specialized labor or expertise and equipment (i.e. a climate controlled case, examination, etc.).
What specifically were you looking for? Because the Kickstarter seems to go into a great deal of detail about where the money is going. For one thing, the various materials the slippers are made from are going to be studied to see exactly what frequencies of light will not damage them. Then a (I imagine) very expensive custom case will have to be designed and build with very specific lighting, temperature, and humidity controls.

Also, the Smithsonian is likely paying some for the donation rewards like t-shirts, tote bags, etc.
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Old 19 October 2016, 09:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Psihala View Post
Please contact the Smithsonian and warn them that they are over-charging for the restoration. I'm sure you have better information than they do and that they will be most interested in hearing your reasoning for why its costing so much in time and resources to stabilize an 80 year old, custom made, one of a kind pair of shoes.

~Psihala
I suspect the Smith knows that the number is being reported or interpreted wrong. If I had to guess I would say they are trying to endow the artifact to pay for not only the restoration but also its long term maintenance.

Indeed, the reports I've read don't say the money is to restore the shoes. It is to "ensure that millions more people can enjoy the ruby slippers for many generations to come." In other words, the money isn't for a restoration and even the Smith can't spend $300K to restore 80 year old shoes that are in pretty good shape to begin with. But if they spend a small fraction of the $300K for the current restoration then put the rest of the money in the bank they can pay for cleaning, cabinet maintenance, insurance, etc. for a very long time. (The Smith is partly funded by an endowment.)
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Old 19 October 2016, 10:02 PM
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Quote:
What specifically were you looking for? Because the Kickstarter seems to go into a great deal of detail about where the money is going.
I wasn't specifically looking for anything. I was responding to thorny locust's post and linked to the Kickstarter page as a point of reference. I'm not questioning why they need that much money.

Then again:
Quote:
Then a (I imagine) very expensive custom case will have to be designed and build with very specific lighting, temperature, and humidity controls.
/sarcasm Maybe we could custom order one from Walmart and donate it. /sarcasm

~Psihala
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Old 19 October 2016, 10:14 PM
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Seems a bit like trying to preserve some special religious relic. Wouldn't the money be better spent making a more durable but accurate replica?
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Old 20 October 2016, 02:07 AM
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The case, though not exactly cheap, isn't all that expensive. It is no doubt already in a standard artifact case. Humidity controlled. Temperature control is not needed since refrigeration isn't needed and the case is in a building with excellent temperature control. Theft protection might be slightly more important for the shoes than for most other artifacts but again, the Smith has artifacts on displayed worth considerably more than the shoes (such as big lumps of gold, which would be trivial to sell, the shoes would be pretty much impossible to sell).

Lighting isn't all that complex either. I am sure the Smith people know all the tricks for lighting light sensitive materials. (Basically, just don't use any lights with blue or UV in them. That works great for red/ruby slippers since they don't need any blue light in their illumination since they would just absorb it and not reflect any.)
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Old 20 October 2016, 02:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
Wouldn't the money be better spent making a more durable but accurate replica?
Are you serious?

Seaboe
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  #15  
Old 20 October 2016, 04:21 PM
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um . . . okay. I guess the answer is more or less: they're not going to spend 300K rehabbing the slippers, they're going to spend some of the 300K rehabbing them, some of it on storing them properly for the indefinite future, and most of it on research necessary to determine how to rehab them and how to store them.

And I suppose the research is also going to yield information that might well make it cheaper in future to figure out how to rehab and/or store other items.

I think they could have explained that more clearly, however, both in the article and on the kickstarter page.

The question of whether it's worth spending 300K on this particular item is another question, of course; and not really an answerable one, because the answer's going to depend on each answerer's individual priorities. Information about how much of the research results might be useful for other things might well change a specific individual's conclusions about that.
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Old 20 October 2016, 04:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
Are you serious?
Yes, absolutely. In any "restoration" a lot of the original material is replaced. I saw the Wright Bros plane as it was "restored" through the years. Almost none of the original is left. Yet there it is in all its former glory. I don't see a need for keeping any relics. I don't see why any of the original material needs to be kept at all. The parts that remain can be preserved separately for microscopic analysis, which has nothing to do with seeing them in the museum. The only reason any of the original is kept is an irrational desire to see "the real thing". Even if it is almost entirely not the real thing any more. It's a kind of superstition.

Last edited by ganzfeld; 20 October 2016 at 04:41 PM.
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Old 20 October 2016, 05:03 PM
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That's why I think using kickstarter for this type of project is really interesting as an alternative way to raise money. I know museums depend on donations and public funding (Not sure how the Smithsonian is funded), and this is a neat way for people to take a little more ownership in part of what they're funding than a general donation would.

There probably aren't a lot of people out there who would say that preserving the shoes (and assorted other expenses) is worth $300,000, but there probably are plenty of people who figure that an iconic prop from a movie they like is worth, say, ten dollars. There's some interesting psychological stuff going on with crowd funding, and I think it can be a powerful tool if you can harness some of what led thousands of people to donate to some guy making potato salad because it briefly amused them.

I've wondered if crowd funding could work on a municipal level for smaller pet projects (things like parks and public art that add value to public space but are seen by some as a waste of money). I wouldn't want to lose the normal funding that goes into things like that, but after seeing the Smithsonian kickstarters, I still wonder if there's a way to make something like that work - mostly so I could throw money at having nice things without having to listen to people whine about it. I think people would be more willing to spend on 'non-essential' city projects if they felt they had some choice and ownership in it (and it opens up other doors.... like if I'm angry that a friend in a US city has no sidewalks, can I kick in twenty bucks to help get one built?)

So, I have no opinions on shoe preservation myself, but I love seeing how projects like this work out because I think it's a cool alternative.
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Old 20 October 2016, 05:20 PM
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The airframe of the Wright Flyer is still original with minor repairs. Yes, the fabric is new, but it is actually closer to the original than it was before.
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Old 20 October 2016, 05:22 PM
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I tend to agree with Ganz. Restorations which replace old parts with new effectively destroy the original artifact. I would far rather that they preserve the original, as best they can, and make a replica to demonstrate what it looked like 'back in the day'.
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Old 20 October 2016, 07:18 PM
jimmy101_again jimmy101_again is offline
 
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People charged with maintaining and restoring artifacts face several questions when it comes to how to restore an object. In some cases replacing degraded materials is acceptable if (1) the same material is still available and (2) the material would have been replaced in the normal use of the item. An example would be say an axe. If the museum receives the tool in working and maintained condition then they generally will maintain it that way. That might mean cleaning it of rust and coating it with oil periodically. If they receive the axe from a dig and the tools is badly corroded they might stabilize the artifact to stop further rusting but often they wont remove the rust. Another example would the be wooden handle of an axe. Again, if the axe comes with an intact and functional handle then that handle will be maintained and replaced if needed since that is what would have happened while the object was in use. If the axe didn't have a handle then they might or might not make one.

In the case of the Write flyer I would say that they obtained the artifact soon after its actual use and if the Writes had continued to use the flyer they would have replaced the fabric as needed. So it makes sense that the museum would replace the fabric to maintain the artifact in the condition it was when they obtained it. Artifacts are never supposed to degrade in the collection if it can be avoided.
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