Top Museum Gift Shops in the Philadelphia Region
Discover some of the areas top creative and unique gifts
If you’re searching for a little something different this holiday shopping season, the excellent museum gift shops throughout the Philadelphia region have a wealth of creative gifts for everyone on your list.
Gallery-side vendors offer many fantastic finds including artisan-made jewelry and ceramics, fair-trade crafts, signature home accessories and Philadelphia-themed treasures — all in support of the incredible museums that host them.
Most museums also promote great seasonal deals on annual memberships that score members free admission throughout the year — and discounts in their shops.
Below, find some museums that make shopping part of the cultural experience:
Seven retailers flourish within the city’s largest venue for art, making the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) a veritable treasure hunt for shoppers. Find both the expected and the unusual, from exhibit catalogs and postcards, to chunky Peruvian knits to limited-edition Zaha Hadid for Lacoste wrap-up-the-leg leather shoes (collected in conjunction with the architect’s exhibit at the across-the-street Perelman building).
For the winter holidays, the PMA opens an onsite, limited-time-only shop offering often exclusive, commissioned gifts. For 2011, the museum has opened a pop-up shop created by Philly artist, designer and author-illustrator Alexander Stadler, that vends regionally designed finds such as MIO’s folding light, cold-brewed La Colombe coffee, trendy Barrio-Neal jewelry the latest motorcycle from Hammerhead Industries, even a seven-foot-long crocheted giant squid by artist Angela Davidson.
Located next door to Claes Oldenburg’s new “Paint Torch” sculpture, Portfolio – the forward-thinking retail arm of the county’s oldest established art museum and school – satisfies the shopping itches of art and design connoisseurs and souvenir seekers alike.
Find a paperweight version of Robert Indiana’s famed LOVE statue, Harry Alan’s marble cast (from a real pig) piggy bank, old records transformed into bowls and bags by a Germantown retailer, plus modern essentials such as sleek iPod docks and indestructible Mighty Wallets, an essential for tough guys. Take-home reminiscences from PAFA’s collection abide here, too, from playing cards to artist prints.
Fifty different Maurice Sendak titles—well beyond Where the Wild Things Are and Little Bear, and many copies signed by the author/illustrator—are just a few of the highlights at the Rittenhouse Square-area book-based museum, where Sendak’s original illustrations and manuscripts are a main attraction. (The shop also sells very cool Wild Thing dolls). Also of note, its saleable collection of James Joyce books, inspired by the Rosenbach’s original edition of Ulysses, read there every Bloomsday, and an impressive array of Dracula books and references. Jewelry, scarves, Judaica and history books are also popular items.
Thinking globally takes on a whole new meaning at the Penn Museum shop, where treasures from far and wide allow visitors to bring home a souvenir of the collections themselves. The main shop offers fair- trade crafts from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Australia and beyond, while the Pyramid Shop caters to kids via stuffed toys, jewelry just for them and globally fun games such as Mancala and Senet.
Harry Potter (and medical arts) fans can shop their hearts out at this history-layered mecca of the anatomically macabre. Gifts here pay homage to permanent exhibitions, including “Soap Lady” soap (which also comes on a rope), creepy-cool Hyrtl skull marble coasters and conjoined men cookie cutters. Sure, there are plenty of serious scientific tomes to purchase here, but there are also childhood favorites such as the game Operation.
There are no actual animals for sale at the gift store attached to the nation’s first zoo, but there is just about every imaginable iteration of them, from the tiniest to the grandest of plush toys, tees for all sizes, snow globes galore and endless books—including popular pop-ups and their new-in-2011 Zoovenir book, documenting the Philadelphia Zoo’s history in photos and stories. Always popular are the shop’s animal adoption kits, which feature favorite zoo animals (and include a certificate, photograph and, of course, a plush replica. The shop typically stays open 15 to 20 minutes later than the zoo itself.
Textiles and functional objects star in this working museum’s popular vending arm, known for its commissioned ornate silk scarves, bags and pillows designed by international luminaries such as Dale Chihuly, Issey Miyake, Louise Bourgeois, as well as Philadelphia’s own artist Virgil Marti and architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Frank Gehry’s tea kettle is in stock, as are Noguchi lamps, William Wegman C-prints of a pair of hands holding a Weimaraner puppy and endless other modern design pieces.
Walking through this river-top setting feels a bit like glimpsing into the bucolic lives of Brandywine residents Jamie, Andrew and N.C Wyeth. The store here stocks a reliable collection of the family’s iconic works, including a silk scarf reproducing Jamie Wyeth’s “Pointlookout Farmlife,” and tee-shirts bearing his famed “Portrait of Pig.” Seasonal note cards, copies of “Treasure Island” featuring N.C. Wyeth’s famed illustrations, regionally made sun catchers, Pennsylvania Redware and Brandywine-carved wood are also for sale. Early each December, the Brandywine puts on its famous Critter Sale, offering thousands of locally made ornaments and table-toppers, all fashioned from natural elements like teasels, seed pods and acorns.
Its hallways are known for their collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist art, and Bucks County’s James A. Michener Art Museum onsite gift shop champions even more regional artists. Work for sale includes crinkled jackets by Ron Livingston, silk chiffon scarves by Harshita Lohia and contemporary-leaning jewelry such as whimsical silver by Andrea Abrams-Herbert, ceramic pieces by Evelyn Taylor and blown glass adornments by Tari Zarka. Don’t miss their impressive selection of area-made ceramics, eco-friendly gifts for kids and the museum’s own publications, including Pennsylvania Impressionism and An Evolving Legacy: Twenty Years of Collecting at the James A. Michener Art Museum.
Pierre and Alice du Pont’s former estate celebrates botany in bloom—and inevitably sends visitors home with visions of replicating Longwood Gardens in their own backyards. The Gardens’ onsite gift shop makes such aspirations reality by offering all manner of gardening books, tools, chimes, Guy Wolff pots, plus herbs, butterfly habitats and Bonsai growing kits. Those less inclined to get their hands dirty can avail themselves of a reliably beautiful assortment of calendars, stationery, home accessories, flowerpot coffee mugs and, especially for the winter holidays, Christopher Radko hand-blown glass ornaments portraying the Gardens’ elegant Conservatory.