They’re normally considered souvenir shops but most museum gift stores sell products and gifts that will likely surprise you. The best trick is to open your mind and your heart (and sometimes also your wallet) and explore them as you explore the museums in which these shops are located.
As our world has become more “instagrammable” and culture dictates a need for aestheticism, so have so many of our own interests. Art and design have trickled into mainstream culture. But where can you usually find unique art or design products at reasonable prices?
Holiday Gift Guides
Everyone loves a good holiday wish list! I’ve shared a number of my favorite gifts I’ve received and/or bought for friends and family over the years. Check out some of my favorite gift guides and wish lists below:
Museum gift shops aren’t always the most affordable options, but their collections are often unique. They’ll often sell products unique to the city or destination you’re in, as well as products unique to their own collection or special exhibitions.
At a Renoir exhibition? You’ll likely find beautiful prints with his work on them.
Museum gift shops often double as bookstores (with a special emphasis on whatever might be in their collection) with art & design books, postcards, or other bookstore bric-a-brac.
It’s not only books or postcards, but also t-shirts, umbrellas, teapots, and flatware. Coffee table books are especially popular at museum gift shops and they’re always a great gift.
When traveling to new cities, the museum gift shops are likely already on your itinerary if you’re looking for art and culture. Why not pick up a meaningful gift as a souvenir from the very museum you just visited? I tend to collect art exhibition books, whether it’s a Yayoi Kusama exhibition, or . book of typography from the Design Museum in London.
For my own personal gift-giving and souvenirs, I tend to gravitate toward art and design museums, places like The Whitney, MoMA, or Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC (both with extraordinary gift shops). But maybe your passions and interest (or those that you’re buying gifts for) are more in the natural science realm, then there are always other types of museums and museum gift shops to visit!
Even if I’m not necessarily shopping for myself or others, museum gift shops often make the best place for a bit of inspiration (and free entry without having to buy a ticket to the exhibition!).
This trick for finding last-minute holiday gifts or souvenirs works not only for museum gift shops, but also for cultural places in general. Many theaters and performance halls often have their own gift shops, maybe more focused on theater production or entertainment.
For example, at the Sony Center in Berlin, you’ll find a bookshop dedicated exclusively to film & television. In London, the iconic Globe Theatre has a gift shop full of posters and theatrical gifts for people of all ages. The National Theatre in London also has a gift shop and bookstore where I’ve bought a lot of theatre plays in the past.
The gifts you might buy at a museum gift shop are also extra special because they come with a story: I bought this for you after seeing Hamlet at the Globe! or You won’t believe how big Sue the T-Rex was at the Field Museum—so I bought you a replica!
Gifts with a story are always more meaningful. And depending which type of gift you buy, they may even be extra educational. Museums are as much cultural places to discover art as they are educational places to learn the history of our world (and in London, the museums are free!).
Museum gifts are often more educational, more meaningful, more creative, and more local. These gifts foster creativity and invite you to be curious about the world—and to remember a specific event, holiday, or vacation.
To choose the perfect gift is an art, and museums are the masters of art.