WASHINGTON -- Dorothy's ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz" have a new home with a diverse set of artifacts in a new timeline of American history that includes a piece of Plymouth Rock, a slave ship manifest, Alexander Graham Bell's telephone and Kermit the Frog at the Smithsonian Institution.
The National Museum of American History opens the exhibit Thursday. It features iconic objects from pop culture, along with items dating to the Pilgrims' arrival in 1620 in Plymouth, Mass. "American Stories" will be a new chronology of U.S. history from the early encounters of Europeans and American Indians to a Barack Obama campaign button written in Hebrew for the 2008 presidential election.
Dorothy's famed shoes from the 1939 movie will help show the emergence of American pop culture and its significance in forming our shared memories. Mixing items from pop culture into a broader timeline is a big change for the museum. For more than 20 years, the slippers have been shown in a separate gallery of memorable items from the movies and entertainment history. Now they will join other items that explore the nation's founding, growth and reforms, innovations and contemporary society.
"We're so getting away from the time when history was all about white men on horses," said Marc Pachter, the museum's interim director. "This is a broader definition of what is important to remember."
More than 100 objects are on display in the new gallery. Curators combed through the museum's vast collection and acquired objects that help show how the peopling of America through immigration and the convergence of cultural traditions created a distinctive place, Pachter said.
This is the museum's first major exhibit with a Spanish translation, which can be accessed online or with mobile smart phones. The museum also developed a mobile app with fuller descriptions of each object on display in English and Spanish.
Curators also are asking visitors to suggest objects that should be part of the American history collection. They can make suggestions in the exhibit or on the museum's website.