The online shops of our nation’s museums are brimming with quirky presents and tasteful trinkets.

Not so long ago, a family visit to a museum, stately home or gallery was rewarded with the purchase of a bookmark, rubber or postcard from a hopeful but mediocre shop. We’ve become a nation of fervent consumers since then, so museum shops have had to up their game. The physical stores are now stuffed with things one actually wants to buy – and their slick, competitive websites make doing so a whole lot easier. Plus, in most cases, the profits from these sites go towards the upkeep of the associated museums; to shop on them is actually to do a good deed.

Here, we’ve picked out ten of the best museum-shop websites.

TATE SHOP


Tate is clear in its mission, which is to promote everyone’s knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of art. The products stocked in its shops (and brilliant shop website) complement the mission perfectly. There are high-quality prints and art books galore, of course. But we haven’t seen the majority of the thoroughly pleasing gifts on offer anywhere else. Take the Casagami Natural Solar Panel House, for example. This charming solar-powered nightlight is unique, improving and easy on the eye.

HOUSE OF VOLTAIRE


Based in a Victorian former chapel in southwest London, Studio Voltaire is one of the UK’s leading independent arts organisations. Its pioneering programme of exhibitions and live events is world-renowned. The online shop, House of Voltaire, aims to redefine the way its global audience engages with art and design. So it works hard to bring us unusual – and sometimes pretty racy – artworks, prints, homewares, fashion, ceramics, books and objects by leading contemporary artists and designers. These things are special. We like the Lambswool Blanket by New York artist, Ella Kruglyanskaya.

V&A SHOP


In theory, you could get every present you ever need to buy again from the V&A shop. It is that good. We love the poster from the museum’s current Tim Walker exhibition, and the Christmas cards are always reliably and heart-wrenchingly excellent. And we can think of scores of people who’d love to receive the Nude Pink Hotlips Ring By Solange.

SIR JOHN SOANE’S MUSEUM SHOP


The essence of the extraordinary house and museum of the British architect Sir John Soane is evoked in its online store. We especially like the shop’s Hogarth range. Inspired by those of the artist’s paintings that are housed at the Soane, it includes a Rake’s Progress umbrella, a covetable Gin Lane print and lots of witty china. Our pick is the Orgy Teacup And Saucer.

CINEMA MUSEUM SHOP


We forgive this site for being a bit clunky because its merchandise is so very charming. Film buffs will adore the original movie posters and esoteric books on offer. We think the Christmas cards are cool, too. As the future of Kennington’s beloved Cinema Museum – a little-known cultural gem – is in peril, shopping on its website could ensure its very survival.

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM SHOP


Launched in 2004, the Natural History Museum’s online shop is constantly evolving. Its buying ethos is, predictably, bang on. They say: ‘We choose our products with educational value and responsible sourcing in mind. Our collections for adults and kids include gifts made from organic, recycled and sustainable materials. We are also developing Fairtrade and UK-made collections in our never-ending quest for the most responsibly sourced products.’ Everything a little lover of dinosaurs could ever dream of is on there, naturally (theirs are the most scientifically accurate dinosaur toys and models on the planet). But there are great homewares, too. Try to resist the Foxes Hot Water Bottle And Knitted Cover.

SCIENCE MUSEUM SHOP


This site stocks carefully curated ranges of toys and gifts based on the collections of the august Science Museum. From fairly serious experiments to jolly jokes and practical stationary, there is something for everyone here. Every prankster – little or large – needs a conical flask of Radioactive Raspberry Sours Sweets in their life.

ROYAL ACADEMY SHOP


Art lovers, rejoice! This site is a treasure trove. Collections inspired by big hitters like Antony Gormley, David Hockney and Paul Huxley are of a decidedly high calibre. We long for the Summer Exhibition 1960 Epic Poster. We love the Luke Edward Hall Cocktail Napkins, and we are sticking the supremely stylish Kissing Clutch straight onto our Christmas list.

LONDON TRANSPORT MUSEUM


This museum – which has been conserving the heritage of London’s transport network since 1980 – is a pleasure for all age groups. Its online shop reflects that beautifully. For interiors enthusiasts, the shop has a rich design history to draw on – think first-edition travel posters, re-commissioned 1960s luggage racks and furniture upholstered in the network’s iconic moquette patterns. For all those small people out there who love a vehicle, there is seemingly limitless choice. Our pick has to be the London Transport Museum Wooden Ride On Bus. Enchanting.

WILLIAM MORRIS GALLERY SHOP


It’s a little niche, this one, but it deserves a mention for doing one thing and doing it with such vigour. William Morris’s hand is instantly recognisable across his plethora of Arts and Crafts prints. If the textile designer’s intricate patterns and rich colour are your bag, this site is for you. Anyone for a William Morris deckchair? How about a supremely pretty William Morris soap? And the William Morris wrapping paper is good enough to frame.

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October 2019

By Becky Ladenburg