Museums Are the Unexpected Trove of Small Gifts You Need This Holiday Season
Museum stores sell all kinds of products in the styles of their exhibits, making for perfect gifts for art lovers and history buffs.
As the holidays approach, we’re starting to see reports of big-box retailers preparing for inventory troubles and slow resupplies. These stories have a lot of people trying to think of shopping alternatives. But given the convenience and influence of these big stores, finding other places to get quality, meaningful gifts and decorations for the holidays can be difficult.
Difficult, but not impossible. Etsy is well known for having items for any and every passion under the sun, and holiday markets offer plenty of unique, handmade gifts. But there is one other, rather unexpected option: museum gift shops.
We’ve all been to a museum store, absent-mindedly strolling through the rows of artistic mugs, blankets, and books. But these shops have more to offer than you may expect. Beyond the classic branded shirts and shot glasses, most gift shops have items that display or reflect their exhibits, so you can take a form of what you saw home.
And these gift shops know their audiences. Art museum stores offer all kinds of objects adorned with the more famous and beautiful pieces in the collections, as well as jewelry and other items crafted in the same style as the museum’s art. Cultural museum stores sell items made and decorated in the style of the culture they showcase. And frontier museum gift shops feature rustic, practical items, reminiscent of days gone by. Plus, many of them are online as well, meaning you can check out all the impressive items without having to visit the museum in person.
Museum stores are a fantastic place to find gifts for those with more unique or specific interests, all while supporting the museums and the services they provide.
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
The Cha Museum Boutique at the Asian Art Museum stocks handcrafted pieces from artists both in the Bay Area and across Asia. Currently, the store is featuring collections from New York Times best-selling author and artist Chanel Miller and street artist Jas Charanjiva. In addition, it offers intricately decorated teacups, delicate lotus pod and bamboo jewelry, and unique clothing items like kimonos and a special Asian Art Museum jacket.
Autry Museum of the West, Los Angeles
Looking to bring the style of the Southwest to your holiday season? The Autry museum store is the place to start. It sells a variety of nativity scenes, all painted in a Southwestern style, as well as a copper Spanish mission-esque church table decoration, and a wreath made out of Mayan dolls. Plus, for your tree, the store also has mica clay discs and Acoma Pueblo pottery balls all painted with designs and figures reminiscent of local Indigenous art.
Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, WY
The Buffalo Bill Center store is a great place to find gifts for proponents of rustic chic and cowboy couture. With turquoise jewelry that captures the spirit of the American West, handmade scarves, and a collection of custom leather goods handmade in-house by Scout Saddle Co., it offers items for people who want to remind everyone that while the Wild West was tamed, its style is still sticking around.
Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, Seattle
This longhouse and cultural center was created to promote the survival of the aboriginal Duwamish tribe native to the Seattle area. As such, the store offers all kinds of goods decorated in the art style of the Duwamish, from umbrellas to fleece blankets, journals, playing cards, and even Seattle Seahawks stickers. Not only do all the items in the store sport incredible unique designs, but also buying from the store helps support the tribe and maintain the only standing longhouse in Seattle.
Frank Lloyd Wright Store at Taliesin West, Scottsdale, AZ
For fans of architecture and American architecture’s favorite son, this store sells models of Frank Lloyd Wright’s projects that you can put together yourself and proudly display. It also sells coasters, glasses, and more printed in the colors and styles of Wright’s projects. Some of these, like the Hollyhock House design with its soft reds and greens, can serve as subtle Christmas decor during the holidays, fitting with the colors and motifs of the season without being overly flashy. Outside of the holidays, they can revert to nice Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired coasters.
The Getty, Los Angeles
With art ranging from ancient to contemporary in the museum, it’s no surprise the Getty’s store has items for most art fans, regardless of their period of interest. From umbrellas and pendants printed with Van Gogh’s irises and glasses decorated with gold ancient Greek designs to handblown Murano glass pieces and figurines of your favorite artists, the Getty store is a goldmine of gifts.
Museums of New Mexico Foundation, Santa Fe
In a special surprise, this is actually four stores in one. The Museums of New Mexico Foundation Store combines the stores of the Museum of Indian Art and Culture, the Museum of International Folk Art, the New Mexico Museum of Art, and the New Mexico Museum of History. This means you get to browse items in the style of New Mexican artists and Indigenous peoples from across the globe, like sand paintings and African trade bead necklaces. Plus, some of these items let you bring these styles into your holiday decor. The store offers hanging pieces in the styles of the Maasai tribe of Kenya and the Huichol tribe of Mexico that would be perfect ornaments, truly of a style unlike any other on your tree.
National Nordic Museum, Seattle
Whether you’re interested in Nordic culture, fascinated by Nordic designs, or just looking for something cozy for the cold winter, the National Nordic Museum Store has something for you. It offers “Nuuk couture” earrings, necklaces, clutches, ties, woolen fingerless gloves and blankets, and selections from the Finnish fashion line Marimekko.
Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City
This store is also a little different. Rather than museum-specific products, it offers pieces made by local Utah artists. It highlights those who “use new materials in their practice to create an innovative, contemporary aesthetic.” These artists create all kinds of pieces, from maps and handcrafted jewelry to clay bowls and vessels, paintings, prints, and drawings.