For a well-curated gift, try a New England museum shop

Faculty- and graduate-created items in RISD|Works, at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.
Faculty- and graduate-created items in RISD|Works, at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.

Museum shops are the secret weapon of gift-giving. What could be better than perusing galleries of paintings, weavings, or dinosaur bones, and then popping into a great little shop to check a few names off your list? From tasteful to quirky, the merchandise is chosen to complement the museum’s collection. You will be buying outside the mall box and supporting a worthy institution. Boston and New England have lots of great options. Here are a few to get you started.

Fuller Craft Museum

Today’s wildly inventive studio craft movement is rooted in an appreciation for functional handmade objects that are a delight to use. The Fuller’s compact shop is full of objects that bring joy to everyday activities — from sinuous spoons carved from wood to stoneware cups and bowls decorated with sea creatures. A totebag made from a recycled museum exhibition banner will elevate even a mundane trip to the grocery store. 455 Oak St., Brockton, 508-588-6000, www.fuller

Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

The museum is famed for its fossil skeletons of ancient thunder lizards, so the museum shop is its own Jurassic park with dino magnets, totebags, and mugs, not to mention dinosaur fossil excavation kits, and plastic and rubber dinosaurs in every size from small puppy down to not-suitable-for-young-children. Don’t forget the glow-in-the-dark dinosaur paint kits, the dinosaur stickers, and (of course) the dinosaur Christmas ornaments. As an alternative, consider striking tribal art or a sparkling split geode. 170 Whitney Ave., New Haven, 203-432-5050,

Portland Museum of Art

David Lyon for the Boston Globe
Winslow Homer-themed merchandise in conjunction with the "Weatherbeaten" exhibition dominates the shop at the Portland Museum of Art.


If someone you know craves a Winslow Homer bobblehead doll or stick-on mustache, they need crave no more. The museum celebrated the opening of the artist’s studio with an exhibition of Homer’s powerful scenes of the Maine coast and with new Homer merchandise for the shop. In fact, the shop has a wonderfully local point of view. Look for pendants with stones or sand dollars, granite stones turned into vases, silk scarves with tiny lobster motifs, and lobster buoy tree ornaments. 7 Congress Square, Portland, Maine,

Mass MoCA

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Winslow Homer wasn’t the only artist with a great mustache. The hip shop at Mass MoCA has a full range of stick-ons, including Salvador Dalí, Vincent van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec. The shop is a gold mine of quirky gifts, from horror or sci-fi sound-effect machines, to flash earbuds that keep the beat to music and LED space gun keyrings. Can’t decide? Stick to the classic Mass MoCA black hoodie or bargain-priced posters from previous exhibitions. 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, 413-662-2111,

Peabody Essex Museum

Fashionable clothing inspired by ethnic costumes at the Peabody Essex Museum.

To celebrate the special exhibition of hats by British milliner-to-the-stars Stephen Jones, there’s a stunning selection of designer chapeaux in the gift shop. But with its beautiful scarves, elegant jewelry, and ethnic-inspired jackets and other clothing, the store has always been a boon to fashionistas who believe in setting their own style. 161 Essex St., Salem, 978-542-1619, www

McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center

The “I Need My Space” T-shirt could be the perfect gift for all the adults on your list. But the Discovery Center’s shop has an out-of-this-world present for would-be space explorers of every age, from space shuttle model kits to astronaut space suits. Inspire an aspiring astronomer with a planosphere (to identify constellations), a moon puzzle, or a solar system mobile. For just a taste of space, try freeze-dried astronaut ice cream or other extraterrestrial rations. 2 Institute Drive, Concord, N.H., 603-271-7827,

Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design

Located on the lower level of the museum, RISD|Works showcases objects designed and made by faculty and graduates of the school. A lot of that creative talent seems to be focused on the kitchen and table, including cheeseboards, wine glasses, candlesticks, and beautiful teapots. Selections from the “zoo” of kitchen gadgets — flying fish whisk, monkey vegetable peeler, crocodile tongs — make memorable small gifts.

20 North Main St., Providence, 401-277-4949,

Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at