One of the biggest misconceptions about museum gift shops is that you have to pay admission to spend your money there. Sure, many attractions funnel visitors out through their retail shops but that means it’s also convenient for you to pop in just to shop.
And they hope you do.
“We are non-profit, which doesn’t mean we don’t want to make a profit in the store but all of our profits go to benefit museum programs,” said Melanie Zuercher, museum store manager for the Wichita Art Museum “When you buy something from us, you’re helping support a child to take a field trip to our art museum, for example. We don’t charge schools for group visits and we reimburse the cost of their bus transportation. So every purchase you make here supports us and the community.”
If you haven’t visited a museum or attraction gift shop in awhile you might think they are just hawking stuffed animal toys and T-shirts branded with their logo. You’ll find those products at most, but you’ll also find one-of-a-kind gifts, items by local artisans and works from artists who are trending nationally.
To name a few: a painting by one of the Sedgwick County Zoo’s chimpanzees, honey grown in a Botanica Wichita garden, Victorian vintage design pottery made by Wichitan Linda Hicks and for sale at Old Cowtown Museum’s S.G. Bastian and Sons Mercantile gift shop or fry bread mix sold at the Mid-America All-Indian Center.
“We have things that can make special gifts and you won’t find a lot of it anywhere else,” said Sarah Adams, museum director of the Mid-America All-Indian Center.
Each shop caters to the museum’s content, then typically also carries seasonal items. The volunteer-run gift shop at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum is currently decked out in wreaths and other Christmas décor, in addition to its regular inventory. The museum’s friends group, called WHiMS, for Wichita Historical Museum Society, has handled purchasing and operating the shop for nearly 40 years.
Recently many local gifts shops have had to make room for the increased demand for Wichita-flag and Keeper of the Plains themed merchandise.
The Museum Store @ WAM carries cufflinks, magnets, snow globes and metal sculptures, along with bronze and silver Wichita flag jewelry by Lamzy Divey, owned by Wichita artist Andrea Gardner, and the recently released Heartlandia Wichita Pride Stickers by Gardner Design.
The majority of the inventory at the art museum’s store, though, caters to art lovers or concentrates on exciting people about art.
“Our goal is to extend and enhance the visitor experience and to fund and support the museum programs,” Zuercher said. “We sell a really wide variety so we have something for everyone. For children that could be art supplies that will encourage them to pursue their artistic side. For adults, it could be a notecard or a jigsaw puzzle featuring masterworks from our collection or a blown glass piece that allows them to take home something related to what they saw on the walls in the galleries.”
If you’re still looking for holiday gifts this year, we’ve put together an overview of what you can find in the gift stores at many of Wichita’s museums and attractions:
Botanica Wichita, 701 N. Amidon, botanica.org, The Gift Garden is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and during Illuminations, which runs 5:30-8:30 p.m. daily. Garden-themed gadgets; toys; books; apparel; and seasonal merchandise such as Santas, ornaments and greenery. They also sell honey produced in the gardens.
CityArts, 334 N. Mead, wichita-cityarts.squarespace.com, the Boutique is open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Year-round the Boutique features work from nearly 100 local and regional artists with pieces ranging from $5-$250. Each November-December, the main gallery is transformed into Gifts in the Gallery showcasing art and gifts made by more than 180 artists working in ceramics, jewelry, painting, sculpture, glass, photography and more.
Exploration Place, 300 N. McLean Blvd., exploration.org, Explore Store is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. The 1,900-square-foot store is packed with fun and educational gifts related to science and current exhibits, including superhero-themed items tied to the Hall of Heroes traveling exhibit and Best-Lock Construction Sets, similar to and compatible with Lego toy blocks and with aerospace sets that relate to the new Design Build Fly permanent exhibit. It also has plushies, apparel, toys, games and more.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen House Museum, 255 N. Roosevelt, flwrightwichita.org, Gilded Garage Gift Shop is open 9 a.m.-noon Tuesday-Saturday and anytime a tour is going on (tour times are on the website’s events calendar). Everything in the gift shop is a Frank Lloyd Wright design or a book about Frank Lloyd Wright. Puzzles; home décor such as throws, votives, tabletop sprites, laser cut lamps and accessories; limited edition items released this year to commemorate Wright’s 150th birthday; and seasonal items including ornaments and greeting cards.
Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St. N., www.gpnc.org, Owl’s Nest Gift Shop open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday and carries gifts for educators, hunters, anglers and nature lovers of all ages. It has a large selection of nature-themed posters, pocket guides and books for children and adults, many with topics specific to Wichita and Kansas; prints and stationery featuring area wildlife and made by local artists; educational toys and games for children; plush animals including songbirds; rocks, gems and minerals; edible insects and insect candy.
Great Plains Transportation Museum, 700 E. Douglas, gptm.us. The gift shop is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday during winter hours. Wooden train sets, toys, railroad-themed books and DVDs, bib overalls, engineer hats, mugs, old-fashioned pocket watches, reproduction retro posters featuring locomotives.
Kansas Aviation Museum, 3350 S. George Washington Blvd., kansasaviationmuseum.org. The gift shop is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday, It has signs, keychains, magnets, mugs and more with aviation images and sayings; U.S. Air Force bomber and U.S. Navy flight jackets in infant to adult sizes; model airplane kits; airplane kites built to scale based on the real dimensions of real aircraft; toys for all ages.
Mid-America All-Indian Center, 650 N. Seneca, theindiancenter.org. The gift shop is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and sells American Indian artwork, books, music and DVDs; handmade jewelry from local artists; dreamcatchers; botanicals; frybread mix, chocolate, buffalo jerky and other food items from American Indian owned businesses; Keeper of the Plains miniature statues; Keeper and Wichita-themed merchandise.
Museum of World Treasures, 835 E. 1st St., worldtreasures.org. The museum store is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday and was recently refreshed with new items added. It features GeoCentral line of science-related, educational and fun products such as dinosaur skull and mummy excavation dig kits and the Crystal Cave, a “hidden” room with a treasure trove of crystals and minerals ranging in size and cost and including geodes and natural salt lamps.
Old Cowtown Museum, 1865 W. Museum Blvd., oldcowtown.org, S.G. Bastian and Sons Mercantile gift shop is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday during winter hours. Victorian and Old West style items, from reproduction classic toys to cowboy hats, sheriff’s badges and handmade bonnet and apron sets for children; western photography and wall art; Victorian vintage pottery; food items, including Holmes Made salsa and jam and Louisburg Cider Mill sarsaparilla with a Cowtown label; Wichita-themed merchandise.
Sedgwick County Zoo, 5555 Zoo Blvd., scz.org. The gift shop open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and carries a big selection of animal toys and plushies, wildlife-themed jewelry and accessories, branded souvenirs. Art by the zoo’s resident elephants, rhinos, chimps, goats and others.
The Kansas African American Museum, 601 N. Water, tkaamuseum.org, Heritage Gift Shop is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturday. It carries jewelry by local artists; Nicodemus, Kansas, swag items; African-American themed books for children and adults; exhibit-related merchandise and art; games; home décor; and authentic African goods sourced from Ghana, including jewelry, woodcarvings, bags, hand fans and shoes.
Wichita Art Museum, 1400 W. Museum Blvd., wichitaartmuseum.org. The Museum Store @ WAM is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday and carries art supplies for children; jewelry from local, national and international artists who are Fair Trade Federation Members; glass art pieces; notecards, greeting cards and other paper goods; toys; games; MOVA Globes; gift items such as bridge card sets; and Wichita-flag merchandise
Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, 204 S. Main, wichitahistory.org. The museum store is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 1-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. It has a large selection of Wichita and Kansas interest books for all ages; jewelry; art by local artists; old-fashioned games and toys; reproduction historical post cards; greeting cards; Wizard of Oz items; Wichita-flag swag; and seasonal merchandise.