CAMDEN — If you need proof that Willard Carroll is the man who has everything, consider this:

He outbid Michael Jackson to buy the hourglass that the Wicked Witch of the West wraps her bony fingers around to threaten Dorothy in the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

Carroll, whose collection comprises the entirety of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” exhibition at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, paid $80,000 for the hourglass more than 20 years ago.

“Obviously, Michael Jackson could have outbid me,” said Carroll. But Jackson’s representative was authorized to bid only so high. Determined to acquire the hourglass that he coveted for years, Carroll kept upping the bid until the Jackson emissary angrily bowed out.

“That is the most I’ve ever paid for anything, still today,” said Carroll.

It’s all about perspective. Carroll, a Hollywood movie and TV producer who moved to Camden with his partner, Tom Wilhite, four years ago, holds the largest private collection of memorabilia inspired by the pop-culture phenomenon that is “The Wizard of Oz.” The Carroll/Wilhite Collection numbers about 100,000 pieces, a fraction of which are on view this winter at the Farnsworth.

The rest remain in boxes in storage. But perhaps not for long.

A NEW MUSEUM

The two plan to convert a 5,000-square-foot wood shop near their rural Camden property into the National Oz Museum. The private museum would join other quirky Maine museums with a single focus, and serve as the final resting place for the Carroll/Wilhite collection.

“I’d like to keep it close for as long as I can,” said Carroll, who makes his living as a writer and movie director.

He and Wilhite co-founded and still operate Hyperion Pictures, a film-production company. They now do it from Maine instead of Los Angeles.

“The movie business is all about waiting,” said Carroll. “I’d rather wait in Maine than wait in L.A.”

They bought a beautiful house with a big fireplace and 80 acres in Camden, and the property happened to include a former furniture-making shop at the head of the long driveway near the road. Carroll had always hoped to show off the collection, and the wood shop presented a ready-made opportunity, he said.

The shop is in good structural shape but the interior needs work. The men engaged members of an interior design class from the Rhode Island School of Design to reimagine the shop as a museum, and are considering final proposals.

When they settle on a design, they will put the project out to bid.

They hope to open the museum in 2016.

STILL CREATING FILMS

Carroll and Wilhite moved to Maine almost sight unseen. Maine was one of two states Carroll had never visited – the other was North Dakota – when in 2007 he came east to mark the 50th anniversary of the movie “Petyon Place.”

The movie, starring Lana Turner, was filmed mostly in Camden and the midcoast. Carroll is a fan, and assembled a collection of “Peyton Place” memorabilia.

“We came for the weekend, and I was here five minutes and said, ‘This is it.’ I knew right away I could happily live here. At a certain point in your life, you need a change,” said Carroll, 58. “Of the 35 years I was in L.A., I loved 33 of them. But it was time for a change.”

Wilhite, who had been vice president in charge of motion pictures and television for Walt Disney, founded Hyperion Pictures with Carroll. The company makes movies and TV series for adults and families. In 1998, Carroll directed Sean Connery, Angelina Jolie and Gillian Anderson in “Playing by Heart.” In 2007, Hyperion released the movie “Marigold,” a romantic comedy starring Ali Larter. The company won an Emmy in 2001 for its Showtime movie “My Louisiana Sky.”

It has produced TV shows for Disney, Fox, HBO, Discovery and NBC.

The men remain active with the film company. In addition to working on their Oz project, they are developing a thriller called “Crawl,” which they hope to shoot in Maine, perhaps in the coming year or two. They are working on the funding now. They’re also scheming a low-budget horror movie that they plan to shoot in the woods behind their house.

Their work carries over into the performing arts, as well. Carroll has begun collaborating with Bay Chamber Concerts of Rockport on an opera, “The Road to Oz.” Carroll is writing the libretto. Vince Clark, an electronic musician known for his work with Depeche Mode, is writing the music.

THE FARNSWORTH SHOW

With the Oz museum, Carroll’s goal is simply to get the as much of the collection on view as possible. “We have this wonderful collection. We’d like to make it so people can see it if they’re interested,” Carroll said.

The hourglass is a good example. Since he bought it, Carroll has kept the hourglass under wraps. When he lived in California, he kept it in an earthquake-proof box in the back of a closet, which seemed like the safest storage place. The move to Maine forced the men to go through the collection, pack it up and take stock.

Carroll has declined most requests to show the collection over the years, largely because of logistical challenges.

Once settled in Maine, he and Wilhite approached the Farnsworth about the possibility of an exhibition. Coincidentally, Down East Books of Camden commissioned a book to document the collection, which required that much of it be unpacked and photographed.

With the 75th anniversary of the movie at hand in 2013 and the collection accessible for the book project, the timing was right for this exhibition, said Farnsworth’s chief curator, Michael Komenecky.

He and Carroll put an exhibition together that highlights the cultural impact of Oz.

The hourglass is among the treasures of the Farnsworth show, along with a dress that actress Judy Garland wore for publicity shots and the only surviving complete munchkin costume, worn by actor Jerry Maren.

There are rare books, movie posters, board games, publicity photos, puppets, dolls, sheet music and scores, scripts and various collectibles associated with Oz.

In all, the Farnsworth is showing about 105 pieces from the Carroll/Wilhite collection.

The exhibition has been hugely popular, said Farnsworth spokesman David Troup. It opened in October and will remain on view through March. October attendance was up 19 percent from 2012, and November attendance was up 75 percent from the previous November, he said.

While the MGM movie starring Garland is almost 75 years old, the Oz impact goes back more than a century. L. Frank Baum created the Oz legend with a series of books, which led to a stage show that became a silent movie that eventually became the motion picture starring Garland that we all know and love today.

The Oz influence continues, with additional movies, musicals and spin-offs, on stage and screen.

The Baum books and 1939 movie it inspired have staying power because the story is propelled by magic and adventure, and anchored in a search for identity, Carroll said. It taps our imagination, suggests that dreams can come true and celebrates comfort in home, he said. It also offers hope and promise.

“For a 100-year period, Oz has been an active participant in every aspect of pop culture in America,” he said.

He calls his interest in Oz “my therapy, or my sanity. I’ve never been to actual therapy, so I call it my Oz therapy.”

Carroll’s imagination was piqued when he watched the movie on TV growing up in Maryland. Like most American kids, he watched every year when “Oz” came on for its annual network broadcast. His mother bought him his first Oz trinket: a figurine from the movie that circulated with soap products. “My mother would buy me all these soap products, which she probably didn’t need,” he said.

Carroll took over from there. He collected anything he could find. As he got older and became successful in movies and TV, he raised the stakes, moving from items related to the movie to props and clothing from the movie itself. He still collects, though is far more discriminating about what he buys.

OTHER MUSEUMS

Janet Mendelsohn, author of the 2011 guidebook “Maine’s Museums: Art, Oddities & Artifacts,” said an Oz museum would be a good fit in Camden, and would be typical of the many “quirky museums” that Maine is known for. There’s the Umbrella Cover Museum on Peaks Island, the Telephone Museum in Ellsworth and the Cryptozoology Museum in Portland.

The common thread that binds these places is the single focus of the director or curator, she said. These museums are dependent on the work of a collector, who devotes time and energy to make the museum viable.

“There are indeed a lot of quirky museums in Maine, and most are in high-tourist areas, which of course Camden would be,” Mendelsohn said. “These museums usually don’t draw huge numbers, but they tend to draw people who are curious and passionate about something.”

She predicted success for an Oz museum in Maine, as long as success does not mean making money. “If he wants to do it to make money, he probably won’t make it,” Mendelsohn said. “But as a tourist attraction in Camden, I think it would be successful as a seasonal attraction, especially if it ties into other civic activities in town.”

If Carroll and Wilhite open their museum, the Maine Oz museum would not be unique. The Oz Museum already exists in Wamego, Kan.

Kansas, of course, is Dorothy’s home in the movie.

The Kansas Oz Museum draws about 30,000 people a year, said museum manager Austin Hibbs. It has an original flying monkey from the movie – as does Carroll – props from the Broadways shows, plates from the movie and personal items belonging to Baum. The collection is privately owned by an individual in Chicago and numbers about 20,000 pieces.

At any given time, the Oz Museum displays about 2,000 pieces, Hibbs said.

He has no doubt that an Oz museum would do well in Maine, especially because it would house Carroll’s collection. Carroll is widely known among Oz die-hards for his collection, Hibbs said.

In Camden, the house that Carroll shares with Wilhite is full of artwork, antiques, collectibles, as well as thousands of vinyl albums from his favorite bands and Broadway shows. However, except for what’s on view at the Farnsworth, the Oz collection remains boxed up.

Carroll is eager to start unpacking.

“The idea is not to collect all this stuff for the purpose of keeping it packed up,” he said. “We’d like to create an opportunity where we can display it properly.”

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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