Museum Gift Shops are the perfect place to find that one-of-a-kind gift for someone special. Instead of fighting crowds at the mall this holiday season head to a museum to explore their enlightening exhibitions and unique items in their museum gift store. Each year I discover beautiful handmade scarves, jewelry, interesting books and educational children’s toys at a variety of museums. I have compiled a list of 10 museums that feature engaging exhibitions and have a well-stocked museum gift store.
Jewelry display, Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Birch Aquarium at Scripps, La Jolla
Exhibit: Visitors will always enjoy a colorful variety of marine life in more than 60 habitats. They have an excellent collection of seahorses and jellyfish along with interactive living tide pools and a great outdoor educational play area.
Museum Store Highlights: The coolest stuffed fish and other animals you could ever find, wonderful children’s books and toys, yard ornaments, wind chimes, art, glassware, jewelry, novelties, and much more.
Mingei International Museum, Balboa Park
Exhibit: Made in America: Icons of the 50 States
This exhibition features an excellent collection of traditional and contemporary crafts that highlight artistic traditions from each of the 50 United States. Visitors will enjoy seeing classic works of art including a work of glass art by Dale Chihuly, a Louis Comfort Tiffany glass bottle, a Gee’s Bend Quilt and a Sam Maloof rocking chair.
Museum Store Highlights: The Collectors’ Gallery at Mingei has a unique selection of ethically made objects from local and international artists. They always have a wonderful display of jewelry and hand-crafted objects from all around the world along with a great collection of books, musical instruments, toys, sculptures, clothes, scarves and more.
Bank in the form of a pig, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla location
Exhibits: San Diego Collects
Featuring regional and international artists this exhibit presents artwork from a variety of local private collections bringing private art to the public.
Museum Store Highlights: You will find an assortment of sculptures, gifts for the home or office, personal accessories, children’s toys, jewelry, books, cards and other unique treasures.
Vintage camera tote bag, Museum of Photographic Art
MOPA| Museum of Photographic Art, Balboa Park
Exhibit: The Time Between: The Sequences of Minor White
This exhibit examines Minor White’s sequences, a unique style of presentation that involves multiple images in a single display. Minor White was an important 20th century photographer who helped change photography from a straight forward visual medium to a more poetic expression.
Museum Store Highlights: This is the perfect place to shop for the Instagram lover in your life. They have a nice collection of cameras and camera accessories, fun merchandise such as a camera lens travel mug, Nikon pillow, or a SunArt Paper Kit along with shirts, books, DVDs and more.
Museum of Making Music, Carlsbad
Exhibit: LOW: The Power and Beauty of Bass
Learn more about the world of bass in this interesting exhibit that engages visitors with the instruments that make low sounds. Visitors are able to enjoy four different interactives including a video that explores bass waves, a visible sonic vibrations installation, a microphone that allows you to transform your voice into a basso profondo, and the “Buttkicker” an audio transducer designed for musical monitoring.
Museum Store Highlights: This store has everything you need for the music lover in your life. I picked up some great guitar pick earrings and a music set for my little girl last time I was at the museum. You will also find a wide variety of jewelry, instruments, CDs and DVDs, books and novelty items.
Painting on view in OMA's Baby Tattoo exhibition
Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA), Oceanside
Exhibits: Baby Tattoo: Carnival of Astounding Art; Bhavna Mehta: Gush
OMA’s Baby Tattoo exhibit features a provocative collection of paintings, sculptures and installations from Lowbrow and alternative art leaders such as Mark Ryden, Robert Williams, Thomas Kuntz and more. The Bhavna Mehta: Gush exhibit is a cut paper installation inspired by a collection of patterns and stories from the community.
Museum Store Highlights: Full of artwork from local artists this gift store always has something new and interesting. They have a great collection of jewelry, handmade baskets, scarves and hats, kid’s toys, books and more.
San Diego History Center, Balboa Park
Exhibits: Masterworks of the Exposition Era; Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss
The Masterworks of the Exposition Era exhibit celebrates the artwork displayed at the 1915 Exposition in Balboa Park. Visitors will enjoy more than 30 representational paintings that reflect the southern California landscape. Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss is a perfect exhibit for kids and adults that features paintings, large sculptures, a reading area and lots of fun hands on activities.
Museum Store Highlights: You will find perfect gifts for history buffs and friends interested in San Diego history at this store. They have a wonderful collection of San Diego memorabilia along with vintage gifts and accessories, children’s toys, jewelry, books and cards.
Gifts available at San Diego Museum of Art
San Diego Museum of Art, Balboa Park
Exhibits: The Art of Music; James Hubbell: California Wildfire Watercolors
The Art of Music is a must see exhibit with masterworks by artists such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Chuck Close, among others. Visitors will enjoy over 200 works of art including musical instruments, paintings, sculptures, textiles, video art, installations and sound art. James Hubbell’s California Wildfire Watercolors exhibition is a powerful and expressive look at the aftermath of the 2003 Cedar Fire that scorched the San Diego region and destroyed part of Hubbell’s home in Julian.
Museum Store Highlights: I always find lovely jewelry at this store; they have a beautiful collection of drewsey stone earrings and rings. This store also boasts unique purses, books, cards, kid’s toys, journals and so much more.
San Diego Natural History Museum (theNAT), Balboa Park
Exhibits: Coast to Cactus; Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed
Coast to Cactus presents an interactive look at the diverse terrain of southern California from the beaches to the mountains and deserts. To learn more about this exhibit read my previous blog. Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed is a traveling exhibit that educates visitors about the lost civilization of the Mayan culture through replicas of important artifacts such as the Maya codices, large sculptures and jewelry.
Museum Store Highlights: This store has a wonderful array of gifts for everyone on your list. From meteorites, jewelry and sculptures to toy dinosaurs, children’s games, books and more, you are bound to find something special.
Visions Art Museum: Contemporary Quilts + Textiles, Liberty Station in Point Loma
Exhibits: Interpretations: Celebrating 30 Years; Excavating for Meaning
This intimate museum always has surprising exhibitions on display. Interpretations: Celebrating 30 Years features 32 contemporary quilts from local, regional and international artists. Excavating for Meaning is an exhibit of layered quilted textiles inspired by architectural excavations by San Diego artist Viviana Lombrozo.
Museum Store Highlights: I always find stunning scarves and unique jewelry in this store. They also have a lovely collection of art quilts, sculptures and catalogs.
Additional Museum Stores
There are many other museums stores you can explore to find unique gifts. Consider visiting the following museums to see what they have available: California Surf Museum, Coronado Museum of History & Art, Living Coast Discovery Center, Lux Art Institute, Maritime Museum of San Diego, Marston House & Gardens, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Botanic Garden, San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, San Diego Model Railroad Museum, The New Children’s Museum, Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center, USS Midway Museum, Whaley House Museum and the Women’s Museum of California.