Yale's museum gift shops offer broad assortment of holiday gifts

Unique holiday gifts available at a number of Yale University gallery and museum gift shops include everything from holiday cards and Christmas tree ornaments to crafts from Peru, England and Thailand. Prices range from under $1 to several hundred dollars. Here is a sampling.

Yale University Art Gallery
1111 Chapel St.

The gift shop is fully stocked with a wide variety of international merchandise that “allows people to enjoy or experience art,” says the store manager, Howard el-Yasin. “We sell all kinds of gifts that just give people a way to interact with art – either by seeing it, touching it or reading about it.” These include posters, books, mugs and note cards featuring items in the gallery's collections, as well as craft kits for children and adults that allow them to create art for themselves.

Like the other campus shop managers, Mr. el-Yasin searches for one-of-a-kind gifts. These include ceramic hanging devils, which are created on demand by an artist from Chicago; Froeble building blocks for young adolescents, used by such famous architects and artists as Frank Lloyd Wright and Josef Albers in their young days; and handmade plush toys covered in patchwork from Sri Lanka.

Other items in the shop's inventory include aluminum mobiles; jewelry; neckties; T-shirts; mouse pads; playing cards; puzzles, Yi xing tea pots from China, blown glass designs called “Ed Heads”, reminiscent of Mr. Potato Head”; posters; calendars; and Christmas, Kwaanza and Hanukkah cards.

In conjunction with the gallery's current exhibit on Baule art, there is an assortment of gifts related to African art, including textiles, jewelry, hand puppets and stuffed animals. One of the most costly items in the shop this year is an African beaded necklace and earring set, carved from ebony, that sells for $700.

The shop features many gifts for children that allow them to explore the artistic process firsthand or are designed to be educational, including blocks featuring letters in different languages. For under $12, shoppers can purchase such children's items as inflatable mini-mummies; worry dolls; glow pens; Amigo bands – friendship bracelets; glowing skeletons; rubber frogs and other animals; and “Washy Squashy Magical Modeling Soap,” to name just a few.

The Yale University Art Gallery gift shop is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and 1-6 p.m. on Sundays. On Thursday, Dec. 11, the shop will be open until 7 p.m. The shop will be closed Dec. 24. For more information, call 432-0601.

Peabody Museum of Natural History
175 Whitney Ave.

While children love the Peabody Museum gift shop for its assortment of dinosaur toys and natural history items, the store is equally known for its variety of authentic crafts from indigenous peoples around the world, according to its manager, Kathleen Sullivan. She works with vendors whose travels to remote villages on the African, South American and Latin American continents, among other places, provide the shop with many unusual items.

“We look for objects that are reflective of the museum's collections but are of good value – things you won't find in a mall store,” explains Ms. Sullivan. In keeping with the museum's emphasis on environmental awareness, many of the items on sale were created from found or reused materials, including some of the jewelry and note cards.

Among the gifts from around the globe are Christmas ornaments made by Indonesian artists from discarded materials, as well as ornaments from Thailand and China; ceramic pottery from Mexico; colorful cloth placemats from Turkey; jewelry made from exotic wood by crafters in Costa Rica; coaster sets in satin-covered boxes and handbags made from old wedding blankets from India; alpaca hats and mittens created by knitters from Peru; and bronze sculptures from Brazil. Many of these items are priced between $5-$50.

The store, which was revamped in October, also carries a wide selection of jewelry in a range of prices. One of the most expensive is a Native American necklace, which sells for approximately $500. This year, there is also a wider selection of all-natural body products such as soaps, hand salves and lip glosses, as well as scented candles. In addition, the store carries canvas tote bags, mugs, mouse pads and other items decorated with a scene from the Peabody Museum's famous “Age of Reptiles” mural.

There is a wide assortment of gifts for children, including bean-bag animals; music tapes; stickers; dinosaur replicas; cloth pouches; key chains; archaeology kits; a kit to make a papier-mache volcano; children's jewelry; “Tornado Tube” which demonstrates vortex action; baseball caps; and boxes of gem stones. Also offered are books, giant floor puzzles and a collection of videos that educate children on such subjects as volcanoes, dinosaurs, and rocks and minerals.

The Peabody Museum of Natural History gift shop is open 10 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon-4:45 p.m. on Sundays. The shop will be closed Dec. 24. For further information, call 432-3740.

Yale Center for British Art
1080 Chapel St.

Miniature replicas of British landmarks and sights – both past and present – are among the items on sale in the Yale Center for British Art gift shop, which specializes in objects related to or created by artisans in the United Kingdom. There, shoppers can find small-scale versions of Balmoral Castle, double-decker buses and Pickford trucks, English “bobbies,” and, for the literary-minded, characters from the tales of Chaucer, “Alice in Wonderland” or “Robin Hood.”

When selecting items for the shop, manager Lizbeth O'Connor says she searches for items that reflect the culture of the British Isles, as well as objects created by British artisans that are beautiful, unique or entertaining.

One of the most costly items at the shop is a handmade chess set based on the characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries $675 for the pieces and the board. For more budget-conscious holiday shoppers, there is also “Playing Shakespeare,” a game of charades for 2 to 24 players, $43.

The shelves in the shop are stocked with many handmade items, ranging from colorful pottery that has been glazed using a method that has been around for centuries, as well as glassware and jewelry, both British estate jewelry from the 19th and 20th centuries and contemporary creations. The shop also carries a large variety of books about British art and Great Britain; educational videos on art; note cards featuring English scenes and famous persons; tins of all shapes and sizes; intricately carved wooden frames; clocks; posters; calligraphy sets; and letter seals, as well as mugs, paperweights, magnifying glasses; holiday cards and gift wraps; and the J. Floris of London line of perfumed sprays and toiletries. In conjunction with the center's current exhibit on Irish art, one display table in the shop is devoted to books on Ireland and Irish art, literature and poetry, as well as books and puzzles related to Celtic culture.

A favorite space in the shop, according to Ms. O'Connor, is the children's section, where shoppers can find an assortment of Galt toys, “Wellie” bears, “Winnie the Pooh” books and stuffed animals; craft sets; Beatrix Potter books and toys; and games.

The Yale Center for British Art museum shop is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. on Sunday. The shop will be closed on Dec. 24. Admission is free. For further information, call 432-2819.

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