On many trips via I-70 between north eastern Kansas and Colorado, we’ve passed billboards advertising the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas. Since our upcoming trip to Colorado had plenty of extra time built into the schedule for meandering, we decided to take a side trip to Oz.
Wamego sits at the intersection of US Hwy 24 and Kansas Hwy 99, also known as the Road to Oz Highway (named Lincoln Ave. within town). The town is bordered to the south by the Kansas River and is about 10 miles north of I-70. Wamego boasts a population of about 4,400, and the town has rallied around the efforts of some highly dedicated and enthusiastic entrepreneurs who decided to build a Kansas museum dedicated to Dorothy Gale and her traveling companions, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. With a major grant from the state of Kansas and lots of volunteer time and effort, the Oz Museum found a home in Wamego in 2004.
The Oz Museum, in a bright green building on Lincoln Ave., claims to have one of the largest collections of privately owned Oz memorabilia in the world. The adult entry fee is a very modest $9. The items include several serious of books by Frank Baum, who wrote the Wizard of Oz series, and illustrations by W. W. Denslow.
Frank Baum’s books, letters and historical notes, and W.W. Denslow’s early Oz character sketches.
Also prominently featured are a few props and costumes actually used in the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie and many posters, keepsakes, and collectables. A tableau of each of the main characters from the movie introduce each section of the museum. And just to make sure you can get your Oz fix, a theater at the back of the museum continually shows the movie.
Munchkin Costumes: Lullaby League ballerina and Fiddler.
Memorabilia: Dorothy Gale/Judy Garland and Wicked Witch of the West/Margaret Hamilton.
Just before dropping you off at the end of the tour in the gift shop, the museum displays memorabilia from other famous Oz screen, stage and TV productions, including The Wiz, and Wicked, and lesser known ventures such as Disney’s 1985 Return to Oz, the 2007 Sci Fi Channel Tin Man miniseries, and the short-lived 2017 NBC Emerald City TV show.
If you’re looking for a highly-curated Smithsonian-like museum with many authenticated artifacts from the movie, this is not your destination. If, however, you want to spend a pleasant hour or two enjoying a creative and fun display of Oz memorabilia brought together in one spot by dedicated, enthusiastic and talented volunteers, who appear to have hearts as big as the Tin Man’s, you will have a wonderful time.