We're off to see the Wizard!

October 31, 2013

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Midcoast Maine is celebrating 75 years of one of the country’s most beloved movies, the 1939 MGM classic “The Wizard of Oz,” in a very unique and special way, and is inviting everyone to share in a bit of nostalgia that has captured the imaginations of young and old for generations.

A couple of weeks ago, the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland opened a new exhibition entitled “The Wonderful World of Oz,” that features more than 100 pieces from the world’s most comprehensive collection of Oz materials, which happens to be based in Camden. The display includes props from various Wizard of Oz movies, rare first-print copies of the original Wizard of Oz book, movie posters and an array of Oz memorabilia, all from the personal collection of Camden residents Willard Carroll and Tom Wilhite. Highlights of the show include one of Dorothy’s dresses, a pair of her ruby slippers, the only surviving complete munchkin costume, the hourglass that the Wicked Witch of the West uses in the 1939 film, and even a flying monkey!

Following its release in 1900, Lyman Frank Baum’s novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” quickly became one of the country’s best-selling children’s books. Although it was eventually translated into several foreign languages and gained worldwide popularity, its greatest success was the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film starring Judy Garland as Dorothy and featuring the hit song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

The Wizard of Oz story has endured for more than a century and is enjoying a recent resurgence with a variety of new productions including: the prequel “Oz the Great and Powerful,” release of the 1939 movie in 3-D, the continued success of the hit musical “Wicked” on Broadway, and Warner Brothers’ planned rerelease of “The Wizard of Oz” to commemorate the movie’s 75th anniversary in 2014.

Willard Carroll has assembled a collection totaling more than 100,000 Oz items since he first became captivated with the story as a young child. He soon began collecting anything and everything Oz related - and continued collecting even after he moved to Los Angeles and made a career as an Emmy Award-winning Hollywood producer. Carroll and his partner Wilhite moved to Camden four years ago and brought their famed collection with them. Items from Carroll’s collection have been exhibited only once, back in 2000 at the Los Angeles Public Library when he lived in California.

Accompanying the exhibition is a new book by Down East Books, “The Wonderful World of Oz: An Illustrated History of the American Classic,” that includes images from the Carroll/Wilhite collection; a celebration of Carroll’s newest Oz-related book, “I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terry the Dog Who Was Toto;” and various special events, including a celebration of Toto’s birthday on November 16 and an evening with “Wicked” author Gregory Maguire at the Camden Opera House on November 21.

“The Wonderful World of Oz - Selections from the Willard Carroll/Tom Wilhite Collection” will remain on view at the Farnsworth through March 30.

Take a trip down the yellow brick road - and memory lane - and join us in this special celebration. For more information, visit the Farnsworth Art Museum at

(Photos courtesy of the Farnsworth Art Museum)

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