Cool Store Alert: National Museum of American History Gift Shop

Sometimes the best part about visiting one of our region's great museums is taking a swing through its gift shop. That's exactly what I did on a Sunday afternoon visit to the National Museum of American History, which recently re-opened after a two-year renovation. The museum has a large, wide-open gift shop on the main floor, one of three stores in the place. It has all the typical Washington souvenirs like key chains and T-shirts, but also features some interesting finds. The main store, which was moved from the basement to the main floor in the renovation, is representative of all what the museum is about, according to a spokeswoman. Everything in it is tied to the collection in some way.

Near the center of the shop is a display of Ralphie bags, designed exclusively for the museum shop by Washingtonians Crislyn Lumia and Maureen Shore-Brown, bag designers who launched their business in 2006. The small handbags, which feature interesting patterns and handles, range in price from $45 to $60.

You can also find replicas of the diamond-and-pearl-heavy jewelry collection of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Among the pieces are $90 bracelets, $75 chandelier earrings and an $80 inauguration ball-worthy necklace. The store also sells Kennedy's signature triple strand pearl necklace for $150. The actual necklace that the First Lady wore is on display in the museum.

You'll also find a nice choice of silk scarves, including a delicate pink and white cherry blossom design for $45.

A back corner of the museum also has a large collection of vintage signs. These heavy steel reproductions of advertisements were largely seen in the early 1900s. You can pick up a railroad crossing sign, a Harley Davidson ad, a Route 66 sign and Smiley's Rest Stop plaque for $25 to $30.

The museum also has a large toy section where you can fill a small bag with shiny colorful marbles for $6, find freeze-dried ice cream for $5 and a pair of Ruby slippers similar to those worn by Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" for $22. You can also find character T-shirts featuring some of Jim Henson's creations for $11.99 and a metal "I love Kermit" lunch box for $15.

The shop also features a large selection of books on politics and history, as well as mementos of the upcoming inauguration and the Obama family. It has the largest selection of Star-Spangled Banner merchandise, according to a museum spokeswoman.

What have you found at local museum shops? Who has the most unique items?

By Tania Anderson |  January 8, 2009; 12:00 AM ET Cool Store Alerts
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Damn! That's always been the best shop - you ruined the secret ;)

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | January 10, 2009 7:51 PM

I don't know how local this is but this ought to be in the National Museum of American History Gift Shop: http://www.obamapaperplate.com

Posted by: damnIneedAjob | January 12, 2009 3:34 PM

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