The Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin made an appeal last month for donations so they could restore 5 iconic dresses worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind.” They needed $30,000 to restore the garments which had been roughly handled and displayed promiscuously before the 5000 boxes of movie memorabilia in the David O. Selznick collection were donated to the Ransom Center in the 1980s.
There they were kept in proper archival conditions, with controlled temperature and humidity, wrapped in acid-free paper. That wasn’t enough to reverse the years of damage. There were holes and frayed spots, tears, unseamed seams on all of the dresses. All the Ransom Center could do was keep them from getting any worse.
That wasn’t going to do, however, to properly celebrate the 75th anniversary of “Gone With the Wind” with a full exhibition of the Selznick Collection in 2014, so the Harry Ransom Center appealed to the public to raise the needed restoration funds. It was an instant success. The $30,000 were raised in a mere 3 weeks.
The museum said more than 600 people from 44 U.S. states and 13 countries contributed to the appeal.
“These generous donations confirm that the film’s legions of fans do, in fact, care,” Steve Wilson, film curator at the Ransom Center, said in a statement.
He said the donations will allow the Ransom Center to restore the dresses and purchase protective housing and custom-fitted mannequins to allow for them to be exhibited according to conservation best practices and standards.
“Gone With the Wind” has some dedicated fans, no question, but I can’t help but wonder if the Ransom Center is kind of kicking itself for not asking for $60,000 given how quickly they reached the goal.
The 5 dresses which will be restored and properly housed thanks to the generosity of the public are the green velvet dress Scarlett made from curtains, the burgundy ball gown she wore to Ashley Wilkes’ birthday party, the wedding dress from her wedding to Charles Hamilton, a blue velvet peignoir and a green velvet dressing gown.