What to Cop from the Museum Gift Shop

Merchandise in the MOMA gift store.

After surveying the galleries, immersing yourself in the culture and devouring the history contained within New York’s great museums, you deserve to take a glance at the gift shop, right? You know, instinctively, that it will be overpriced –– what tourist trap in New York City isn’t? –– yet you just want to check it out, maybe find a souvenir to remember your trip to the museum or, at the very least, advertise your artistic side.

Unfortunately, many of the finds in museum gift shops are quite drab, plain or boring. Keychains, plastic pins of the same variety, some wall posters and postcards might have even scared you away from this part of the museum. In spite of being ironically uninteresting, there are some pieces worth picking up to last a lifetime.

Museum apparel is a mixed bag –– steer clear of T-shirts plastered with screen-printed art. The selections can often easily be printed at home or bought on Etsy — and they never hold up to the real thing. Instead, delve into the classic pieces like this crewneck, hoodie or  baseball cap. Not only do they never get old, but they are usually of a higher quality.  

There are items with obscure references to artists that appear in the museum, but often, these too are expensive due to their artistic connotations. Since they are rather plain anyway, they’re probably not ideal (see this $125 Lingua Franca sweatshirt from the Whitney).


Of course, with all of that being said, there are still stellar finds aside from apparel –– you just have to know where to look.

Tea towels, mugs and ceramic plates can serve as functional displays of your artistic inquiries. Additional housewares, like desk toys, light fixtures and furniture, may come at a higher price point but might also be worth it to curate ambiance.

If you’re looking for something more portable, totes and umbrellas are ways a practical way to advertise your museum patronage. Totes tend to be relatively cheap and environmentally friendly. Additionally, these products are an investment as they can be reused for years and only look cooler with age.

If you take the time out of your day to go to an institution that prides itself on housing objects of talent and artistic inspiration, why settle for overpaying for an item that reflects the opposite? Make your museum trip worthwhile by buying something you’re proud to show off –– something that is unique and expressive of the place you visited.

Email Trishna Rikhy at [email protected]



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here