All Things Oz in Chittenango celebrates life and stories of L. Frank Baum

CHITTENANGO -- As you enter through the emerald green curtains separating the gift shop from the museum at the All Things Oz Museum in Chittenango you will see a portrait of L. Frank Baum hanging on the wall with a quote from the village's favorite son that reads "...To please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms a heart and brings its own reward."

For 34 years, local residents have volunteered many hours of their time and some of their own financial rewards to keep the dreams of local children and the memory of the Royal Historian Of Oz alive and flourishing.

"We have made a commitment to this community, to the Baum family, and to the many Munchkins who have traveled to Chittenango year after year that this museum will be here for the long term," said Colleen Zimmer, one of the directors who works to make this mission a reality. "While we have a good group of dedicated volunteers, our concerns are always with raising the financial resources necessary to keep the dream going,"

Zimmer says it costs more than $50,000 annually just to stage the Oz-Extravaganza weekend. "We have made a name for ourselves in the 'World of Oz' by our annual Oz weekend, but many are not yet familiar with our museum - All Things Oz," Zimmer said.

Nestled in the heart of the village on Genesee Street is a warm and colorful museum showcasing just what its name implies - all things Oz. Co-director Barbara Evans said All Things Oz is a dream fulfilled and a total labor of love by many, many dedicated volunteers and true lovers of Oz.

The museum opened its doors in June of 2011. Inside, visitors will find beautifully restored photographs depicting the life and adventures of Lyman Frank Baum, from his early childhood in Chittenango, to his years in South Dakota and California. In fact, Evans notes, the storefront of the museum is known as "Baum's Bazaar" taken from the store Baum owned and operated with his wife, Maud, in Aberdeen, S.D.

Baum started writing at an early age. While living in Mattydale, Baum's father purchased an inexpensive printing press used by Baum and his younger brother Henry to publish "The Rose Lawn Home Journal." The brothers produced several editions, including some ads they are believed to have sold throughout the community.

Copies of these publications along with many of the books, theatrical scripts, play bills and promotional signs associated with Baum's work are on display for visitors to view at the museum.

"We have developed a comprehensive field trip program for school children, adult and senior citizen groups," Zimmer said. "We have also obtained a substantial amount of research information that students can use to study about our local hero and the literary contributions and lessons in life that he made."

One of the lessons Zimmer hopes that children visiting the museum learn is that you do not have to be from a big city to make an impact on society. "Growing up in Chittenango or any community in Madison County, anyone can make something of themselves if they have the goals and ambitions to do that," she said.

While visitors can learn all about Baum and his many achievements, Oz fans will also find hours of enjoyment viewing the more than 1,000 piece collection of Oz memorabilia items on display, including items from the 1939 MGM movie and past Oz weekends.

An authentic autograph of Judy Garland along with replica dresses worn by Munchkin Margaret Pelligrini in the MGM movie are among the pieces on display. "Many of the items in our exhibit have been donated by the Baum family," Zimmer noted. Other pieces were donated by individuals for fellow Oz enthusiasts to enjoy.

"This summer, we are featuring an exhibit which will be the 'Top of the Line' for Oz enthusiasts to see," Evans said. The directors are keeping this surprise tightly guarded for now but plan to announce this "major attraction" soon.

Curators are constantly preparing new features and bringing in new collections. "Each time someone visits they will find something new and exciting," Zimmer said.

Unlike Dorothy, the volunteers are not able to click the heels of their ruby slippers to obtain what they are seeking. While many have contributed, the museum needs more benefactors to flourish. It costs close to $2,000 monthly just to pay the rent and utilities and that does not include any funds to help the museum grow.

One way that individuals can help save this museum is through the "It Takes Two" campaign.

"We are asking Oz fans everywhere to send $2 to us," Zimmer said. "In return, your name will appear in the 'All Things Oz' exhibit and on the It Takes Two club sign to be housed permanently in the museum.

"We are hoping that area residents as well fans of Oz throughout the world will help us preserve the history of L. Frank Baum and the 'Wizard of Oz' by helping us raise money for the permanent 'All Things Oz' exhibit," she continued.

"Our dream to someday purchase a building complete with an expanded exhibit hall and theater area that can be visited by families for generations to come," she said.

Individuals interested in helping can send their contributions to:

Oz-Stravaganza! It Takes Two

222 Genesee St. Chittenango, NY 13037.

For additional information,contact the museum at 315-333-2286 or visit the website at: