The Wizard of Oz Museum opens in Florida in honor of Judy Garland’s film and Frank Baum’s book
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Peering at visitors, a meticulously detailed troupe of handcrafted vintage stick puppets greet visitors to the Wizard of Oz museum: Dorothy with her picnic basket and plaid dress; the shiny chrome Tin Man; a plush fawn cowardly lion.
“These are regional puppets and the regional sets that were used in 1950s and 1960s performance in the Chicago area,” said mega-collector and museum owner Fred Trust, looking at the puppets.
“They’re so unique. I got them as a complete collection. The Smithsonian contacted me — they wanted to have them,” Trust said.
“And I said, ‘I’m opening my own museum. “
The 1939 MGM musical “Wizard of Oz” is considered the most-watched film in television history. But there are only a handful of Oz-themed museums in the United States, scattered geographically across the country.
Trust – which fell in love with history as an elementary school student in Azerbaijan – displays more than 2,000 artifacts from its vast, world-class collection in the new The Wizard of Oz museum on the A1A trunk road in Cape Canaveral .
Journey to the Land of Oz
Inside The Trust’s museum is a cornucopia of rare and unique objects in the land of Oz: board games, figurines, masks, plates, autographed photos, costumes, stuffed dolls, posters, sheet music, and even soaps from vintage collection in the shape of movie characters.
The museum portion of the 4,500 square foot facility opened in late October. Last week – just steps from a life-size Wicked Witch of the West and a trio of flying monkeys – an adjacent wing opened with an immersive Vincent van Gogh video projection experience.
The Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at The Wizard of Oz museum beginning at 10 a.m. on February 11. The museum is located at 7099 N. Atlantic Ave., just south of Cape Canaveral City Hall.
Visitors who dress up on February 11 as one of the six main “Wizard of Oz” characters – Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch of the North – will receive a free entry. Everyone else will get half-price admission. A costume contest will take place.
“I’m especially glad he was able to open a museum in Florida, because that part of the country is a little underserved,” said Jane Albright, president of the International Wizard of Oz Club.
“Florida is an area where anyone there would have had to travel a very long way to get their Wizard of Oz fix,” said Albright, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri. She has around 30,000 items in her collection of Oz memorabilia.
“Any new Oz museum is, of course, exciting for fans. I’m sure I won’t be the only person looking to be able to take a trip there. They become pilgrimages for us,” Albright said.
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In February, news broke that New Line Cinema was planning a remake of “Wizard of Oz” directed by Nicole Kassell, executive producer of HBO’s “Watchmen.”
An avid bookseller, Trust highlights the significance of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, its 13 sequels and 26 subsequent Books of Oz – which feature hundreds of characters.
“Ninety-nine percent of people have no idea about books,” Trust said.
“The idea here of the museum is to add that historical value and show that there’s more to the stories than the film,” said Trust, which displays covers of the 40-ounce books in its gift shop.
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The Wizard of Oz Museum features artifacts arranged in cabinets dating chronologically from 1850 to the 1980s. Visitors can scan QR codes to hear explanatory narration.
Note: Trust owns the first recorded copy of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. He said he bought the book, which was printed on May 23, 1900, at an auction about 15 years ago. Signed by Baum, Trust said the book is worth $250,000 – but he considers the book “priceless”.
“This is the first known copy in existence. It is a pre-publication copy. The second known copy was given by Frank Baum to his mother, which is currently in the New York Public Library in the rare books,” Trust said. noted.
Other museum highlights include:
- An August 1938 copy of the film script.
- A mid-length reddish fox-raccoon jacket belonging to Judy Garland, monogrammed with her initials JG.
- An oil painting by artist Natalia Babi of China Girl from the 2013 Disney film ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’. Trust said it paid over $100,000 for the painting.
Trust exhibited his rare books and memorabilia at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC; the Land of Oz theme park on Beech Mountain in North Carolina; and Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
He has also donated books to the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas.
“Fred has been a dealer selling rare Oz books to the Oz book collecting community for decades. And has a great reputation for that business. So I’ve heard of him for years and bought from him for my own collection,” Albright said.
“Something big for the community”
Trust believes its museum’s location at Cape Canaveral will draw visitors to Port Canaveral, Cocoa Beach and the Kennedy Space Center. Albright noted that The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios featured “The Wizard of Oz,” but the Orlando attraction closed in 2017.
“Brevard County and the Cocoa Beach area is very diverse in what we have to offer, unlike many communities we know and travel to. (It’s) really attractive, just a really neat place to go and see history,” said Jimmy Lane, president and CEO of the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“I think it’s just going to be a huge attraction, something absolutely great for the community,” Lane said.
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Trust fell in love with the “Wizard of Oz” while attending elementary school in his native Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic. One of his teachers would read five to 10 minutes of a translated version by Russian author Aleksandr Volkov at the end of his class, sparking his interest.
“They presented it as a Russian story. When I came to the United States, I learned that it was Frank Baum’s story. And I read it – and I was hooked,” said declared Trust.
Trust came to the United States in 1980, when he was 20 years old. A software developer, he went on to manage software programs for Visa, T. Rowe Price and CitiFinancial before retiring.
He and his wife, Palina, moved to Suntree in 2020. He said he’s amassed his extensive Oz collection by reinvesting in vintage book sales over the past 25 or so years – he’s published a book price guide “Wizard of Oz” in 2009, then updated and expanded last year.
Trust said it has sold more than 10,000 copies of the Oz Book Price Guide.
The museum’s Video Room measures approximately 2,000 square feet, features 30 laser projectors, and showcases immersive and ethereal Van Gogh videos and music. Trust said its installation is unique because it is permanent and not a traveling exhibit.
St. Petersburg-based Pixel Rain Digital is developing an immersive “Wizard of Oz” experience – featuring a moving yellow brick road and tornado scene – which is expected to be completed in two to three months. The company created a multi-dimensional “cloud room” for the “Magritte & Dalí” special exhibition at the Dalí Museum in 2018-19.
Building on the van Gogh exhibit, Trust hopes to develop similar immersive art experiences featuring Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci and Claude Monet.
Admission to the museum is $29.99 for adults and $14.99 for children ages 3-12. Daily hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. – except Tuesdays, which are 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit wizardofozflorida.com or call 888-WIZ-OF-OZ.
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