(CNN)A formal believed to person been worn by Judy Garland arsenic Dorothy successful the classical 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz" has been recovered connected apical of mailboxes successful a assemblage play department.
The Catholic University of America, successful Washington DC, said successful a release connected Thursday that the formal had been missing for galore years aft being talented successful the aboriginal 1970s.
Lecturer Matt Ripa had heard rumors that the point was successful the Hartke gathering wherever helium worked and had spent fruitless hours searching for it successful archives and closets.
He had started to judge it was a "tall tale," the assemblage said, erstwhile helium spotted a container connected apical of the mailboxes.
"I was funny what was wrong and opened the bag. Inside was a shoebox, and wrong the shoebox was the dress! I couldn't judge it," Ripa said. "My co-worker and I rapidly grabbed immoderate gloves and looked astatine the formal and took immoderate pictures earlier putting it backmost successful the container and heading implicit to the (University) Archives. Needless to say, I person recovered galore absorbing things successful Hartke during my clip astatine Catholic University, but I deliberation this 1 takes the cake!"
The university's Tower paper had written successful 1973 that the formal had been fixed to past caput of play Rev. Gilbert Hartke, by histrion Mercedes McCambridge. McCambridge had been artist-in-residence the twelvemonth earlier and was a modern of Garland's, the assemblage said.
The gift, according to the Tower article, was expected to supply "hope, strength, and courage" to students.
The assemblage said that it was unclear however McCambridge acquired the dress.
"As archivists, we were obliged to enactment connected gaining further documentation for this fashionable civilization nationalist treasure," said Maria Mazzenga, Ph.D. 2000, curator of the American Catholic History Collections astatine Catholic University. "We person respective photos of Father Hartke holding the dress, and articles from The Tower and The Washington Post referencing it. So the circumstantial grounds is strong."
Mazzenga contacted the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and Ryan Lintelman, an adept successful the museum's Oz memorabilia, who provided much accusation connected the dresses worn by Garland.
Five -- excluding the museum's latest find -- person been verified arsenic astir apt authentic, the assemblage said.
"All of the dresses person definite verifiable characteristics, including, for example, a 'secret pocket' connected the close broadside of the pinafore skirt for Dorothy's handkerchief, 'Judy Garland' written by manus successful a publication circumstantial to a azygous idiosyncratic who labeled each of the extant dresses successful the aforesaid hand. Apparently, the bladed worldly of the blouse was prone to tearing erstwhile Garland took it disconnected aft filming, and a seamstress often repaired it earlier she donned it for the adjacent shoot," the assemblage said successful the release.
The formal recovered successful the Hartke gathering shared those characteristics, the assemblage said, and LIntelman and 2 colleagues who had viewed it said the "evidence astir the formal was strong."
The Catholic University said that its formal volition beryllium stored successful the University's Special Collections.