It's official. The crash dummies are joining the slippers from the Wizard of Oz in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History's collection.

The Department of Transportation and the Smithsonian announced the donation today saying that the dummies, Vince and Larry, who started "life" as part of a successful public service announcement effort to urge seat belt use, marked an era and took their place in history.

"We learned a lot from Vince and Larry about the importance of buckling up," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. "They are a part of American culture and became household names while educating the public on seat belt use. Their message still holds true today."The Smithsonian's Museum of American History accepted the donation today at an event that included the dummies creators and two of the actors that played them, but it could be awhile before they show up in a planned museum exhibit about auto safety.

The crash dummies were created in 1985 by Chicago advertising agency Leo Burnett USA as part of an Advertising Council effort for the Department of Transportation's National Highway Safety Administration.

In that ancient era, the wearing of seat belts was neither generally required nor mandated through in car bells, gongs and dings and the campaign was intended to get people to buckle up.

Two advertising creatives, Jim Ferguson and Joel Machak, developed the campaign which used the "You could learn a lot from a dummy theme" and featured the dummies talking about buckling up with a morbid sense of humor. William Dear directed the TV commercials, which featured Tony Reitano as Vince and first Tom Harrison, then Whitney Rydbeck as Larry. Comedian
Jack Burns voiced Vince while actor/writer/producer Lorenzo Music voiced Larry.

In a blog entry last week, Ferguson said the dummies won major creative awards and were featured in 50 TV spots, radio commercials, posters, and newspaper and print ads and became the second most successful Ad Council effort, just behind Smokey the Bear.

The dummies were generally retired in 1998, because they were too successful.

Mandatory seat belt laws and the arrival of the dings and bells made the campaign unnecessary. Though in retirement the dummies made an appearance in one 2002 public service campaign in which they visited the White House.

Costumes for the dummies were presented to the Smithsonian Museum of American History today at an event at which the museum also received other icons of auto safety. Among the others were a seat belt from a 1991 Volvo and 1930s era auto education materials from the American Automobile Association.

Peter Liebhold, chair of the division of work and industry at the museum, said in an interview that the new objects would soon become part of a web page and eventually could get worked into the museum's exhibits.
"(Associate curator) Roger White, has been expanding the automotive collection in an exciting way so we are looking not just at the outside of the car, but safety," said Liebhold. "The crash test is an important moment in American history."

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