What Happened to the Wizard of Oz Costumes and More Great Questions From our Readers

Apollo 11 souvenirs, Walt Whitman’s politics, and dinosaur DNA were among the subjects you wanted to know more about

Ask Smithsonian
Illustration by Daniel Guidera

What happened to the costumes for the main characters in the Wizard of Oz? Could they all be gathered for an exhibit?
Amy Wooden
Silver Spring, Maryland

It’s highly unlikely. The Tin Man and Wicked Witch costumes may be lost to history (except for the witch’s hat), and the others were dispersed when MGM auctioned them off in 1970. The Cowardly Lion head is at the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, and generous donors gave our museum the Scarecrow costume and Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers.
Dwight Blocker Bowers
Curator of entertainment history, National Museum of American History

Did the 1969 Apollo 11 mission leave a “greeting card” on the moon? And did it include recordings of J.S. Bach’s music?
Arnold Sherman
Indianapolis, Indiana

Yes and no. Apollo 11 left a disc bearing messages from presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon and other world leaders—but nothing from Bach. However, his music is on the “golden record” borne by the two interstellar Voyager spacecraft launched in the 1970s. That record, which includes 115 images and 90 minutes of music, was intended to introduce extraterrestrials to human civilization. The Voyagers are still sending data back from the outer edges of the solar system, but there’s been no word from ETs.
Allan Needell
Curator of space history, National Air and Space Museum

Which political party did Walt Whitman belong to?
Micah Flint
Rockville, Maryland

Whitman fervently supported Abraham Lincoln and the Union cause, but he was a Democrat, ever sympathetic with workingmen and small farmers. His leanings provide an interesting glimpse into the political evolution of American democracy in the Civil War era.
David C. Ward
Historian, National Portrait Gallery

Is it possible to determine the color of a dinosaur by doing a DNA scan of its bone marrow?
Jake Michael Rider
Bishopville, Maryland

Only hypothetically: Unfortunately, we haven’t discovered dinosaur bones that have preserved DNA in them. If we were to discover some, then it might indeed prove useful as a source for color information.
Matthew Carrano
Curator of dinosaurs, National Museum of Natural History

A possible relative of mine donated his art collection to the Smithsonian. Could you tell me what is in the collection?
Shaun Freer
Ottawa, Canada

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you mean the railroad-car magnate Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919). He purchased more than 1,000 works by James McNeill Whistler, added works by other 19th-century American and European masters and then focused on paintings and ceramics from Japan and China and artifacts from the ancient Near East. He donated his entire collection—more than 30,000 pieces—plus money to build a museum for them, to the Smithsonian, which this month is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Freer Gallery of Art.
David Hogge
Archivist, Freer Gallery of Art

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