Visiting a local museum is a wonderful way to get to know the spirit of a place. And here on the North Shore, it’s also a great way to get into the spirit of the season, thanks to gift shops that offer locally made and one-of-a-kind items that shoppers often can’t find anywhere else. Pairing a museum visit with your holiday shopping not only elevates “shopping local” to a new level, but also helps support museum programming, exciting exhibitions, and education.
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem
The experience: Visit the Peabody Essex Museum to become immersed in maritime art and history, with its extensive collections of African, American, Asian, maritime, Native American, and Oceanic art and compelling rotating exhibitions.
The shopping: The renowned PEM Shop is more than just a museum gift shop, although you’ll certainly find items relating to its permanent collections and special exhibitions, like clothing inspired by the textile art of Gio Swaby and books and prints from the collection. It’s also a fun, vibrant shopping experience all on its own, says Victor Oliveira, director of merchandising for the Peabody Essex Museum. “PEM Shop is known for an eclectic mix because it reflects so many different aspects of the collection,” he says, from far-flung regions of the world to varying artistic disciplines. “You can go from maritime to Iris Apfel in 20 steps, so the store tries to reflect as much of that as possible.”
The PEM Shop often carries handmade, hard-to-find items from small makers and craftspeople, who are based both locally and around the world. Fill your basket with everything from chocolates from Harbor Sweets to clothing from the sustainable, Lowell-based fashion line Queen Adeline, as well as jewelry, home décor, items for kids, and more.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester
The experience: The Cape Ann Museum tells Cape Ann’s story through art and trade, from paintings by local artists like Fitz Henry Lane to artifacts from its fishing and granite industries, as well as rotating exhibitions like the current Max Kuehne exhibition.
The shopping: Cape Ann is known for its arts communities, so it’s no surprise that this gift shop would be filled with items that reflect that, from both historical and contemporary artists and makers and modern ones who are working and creating on Cape Ann today. For instance, in addition to offering books, art materials, postcards, and items related to the collections and exhibitions, such as the recent Edward Hopper exhibition and pieces related to the Folly Cove Designers, Beth Brau, visitors service and store manager, says the shop also increasingly works with local makers.
There’s jewelry from Rockport-based mosaic artist Pam Stratton and Gloucester-based glass artist Beth Williams. Shoppers will also find children’s products, clothing, and other items related to Cape Ann art and artists, like Virginia Lee Burton, who wrote and illustrated the children’s classic, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and goods that are custom created just for the museum.
Castle Hill on the Crane Estate, Ipswich
The experience: Castle Hill on the Crane Estate is more than just a house museum. A visit to the Stuart-style mansion also encompasses a visit to the estate’s spectacular, 165-acre grounds, with elaborately manicured gardens and spectacular seaside vistas.
The shopping: Kitty Bartholomew, Castle Hill retail comanager, says by shopping at the Crane Estate’s gift shop, visitors can make a “purchase with a purpose.” “We feature local, handmade, and unique items that support land, historic, and cultural preservation,” she says.
Indeed, in addition to the typical books, prints, and ornaments that people usually encounter in museum gift shops, the shop at Castle Hill features a number of products from artists and makers that are local to the North Shore, including original oil paintings and canvas prints from Ipswich-based Colleen Kidder; glass sand globes from Lowell-based Aron Leaman; and jewelry from Amesbury-based Amy Vander Els, among others. Shoppers can also find the Castle Hill Collection of jewelry, which Ipswich-based designer Betsy Frost created especially for the Crane Estate based on a sunburst design in of one its windows.
Also check out
Appleton Farm Store: A Trustees of Reservations property in Ipswich, this farm store sells Trustees-grown products, fresh baked goods, and pantry items. thetrustees.org/program/appleton-farm-store
pARCels: Located at the Liberty Tree Mall, this shop sells products made by or sold through companies owned by people with disabilities or autism and is staffed with people served by Northeast Arc. ne-arc.org/parcels
Lynn Museum/Lynn Arts: Get all your Lynn clothing and gear, plus books, jewelry, and even marshmallow Fluff items when you visit the shop. lynnmuseum.org/#shop
Addison Gallery of American Art: Hit the gift shop after visiting this free Andover museum, located on the Phillips Academy campus. addison.andover.edu