When the Library of Congress chose to honor the publication centennial of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with an extensive exhibition, the curator found a terrific consultant in his own backyard. Michael Gessel had been a member of the International Wizard of Oz Club since 1971 and had a broad knowledge base from which to draw, as well as experience in exhibitions, writing, and organization of Oz events.
In 1977, at the University of Pennsylvania, Michael organized the first retrospective exhibition of original drawings and books by Oz illustrator W. W. Denslow. His own Oz collection includes a number of Denslow books and rare ephemera.
A welcome volunteer in our ranks, Michael served as the editor-in-chief of The Baum Bugle from 1988 to 1992. Michael left that post to take on the Club’s special publications program in 1994. He served two terms as Club vice president from 2002 to 2007, and received the Club’s L. Frank Baum Memorial Award for his years of work in 1999. Most recently, he assumed the duties of treasurer in 2009.
Michael spoke at the 2007 Winkie Conference about Jack Snow, one of the least-known Oz authors. He lectured at our Oz Centennial event on The Wizard of Oz as a political metaphor; his analysis of that topic was then published in the South Dakota History Journal. He also has chaired the Munchkin Convention, and helped organize local Club meetings in the Washington, D.C., area, where he lives with his wife and three sons.