Notes on The Future of Museum Retail

A few years ago we read a powerful article by Elizabeth Merritt, founder of the Center for the Future of Museums. In it she recounts a talk she gave at the Museum Store Association.  See her thoughtful words below: 

"Even though we all know that nonprofit is a tax status, not a business strategy, we in museums often seem to act as if commercial activity is a necessary evil, something that ought to take place at a dignified remove from the core activities of the organization.

That seems odd to me, as someone both devoted to museums, and to shopping in museum stores. I think museums per se and their stores spring from the same basic human impulse. Somewhere at the heart of the hard-to-define museum identity is the nature of our relationship to objects. My personal theory is that our thoughts, emotions and memories are too big to be encompassed by our oversized mammalian brains. We use objects as receptacles for the overflow, as repositories of memories, feelings and stories.

The museum store is a natural extension of our relationship to the objects we preserve in museums: enabling people to capture and archive their memories, feelings and stories of their visit.  In the past, stores did this by selling stuff, and doubtless will continue to do so. "

sophie sagar