By Katharine Noiva, Director of Visitor Experience & Learning
The Museum Store often gets overlooked in the grand scheme of Museum tidings. In the hustle and bustle of changing exhibits and public events, the Store can just seem like a stop-by on the way to getting in and out of the Museum. For those of us in Visitor Experience, the Museum Store is actually one of the most important parts of the Museum and has a huge impact both on how visitors feel about their time spent at the Museum as well as how visitors can connect and give back.
Recent data provided by IMPACTS Experience recently surveyed over 3,000 people who had a retail experience at 81 different Museums before the end of 2021. Their numbers showed that many of the factors that make for a good day at the Museum have a lot to do with the Museum Store, especially since the pandemic. One of the most important factors in whether someone has a good time has to do with welcoming staff, finding gifts for loved ones, and supporting the organization. But their most important finding from their data was that visitors are looking for unique items that can only be found at that location.
It’s an important point and an influential factor in a lot of our choices when deciding what products to carry in our store. Each time we connect with a new product or a new vendor, it’s a great opportunity for the Museum to connect with our local community and support our mission of a more sustainable future. After the Maritime Museum divested from plastic in the Store in 2020, we’ve made an ongoing effort to connect with local businesses and crafts people to offer our visitors.
One of our first stops was Maple Landmark, based in Middlebury, Vermont. Maple Landmark is a family-owned business that started in 1979. All of their products are made in Vermont, with most of their lumber coming from locally owned mills. Each stage of their production has been carefully planned to maximize efficiency and minimize waste. Even the leftover sawdust goes to local cattle farmers for bedding and scrap wood is made available to local Vermonters for kindling. We were lucky to have some custom products made for the Museum, including magnets made of maple to replace our previous plastic magnets and yoyos with our logo engraved on them.
We’re proud to feature other products from local Vermont companies, like Silver Forest Jewelry based out of Bellows Falls, Big Picture Farms, which makes caramels from their Animal Welfare-Approved farm of 40 free range goats in Townsend, and Daily Chocolates delicious range of chocolate treats right here in Vergennes. We’ve also branched out with our book selection to include more BIPOC and female authors and subjects with titles like Discovering Black Vermont: African American Farmers in Hinesburg by Dr. Elise A. Guyette and Vermont Women, Native Americans & African Americans: Out of the Shadows by Cynthia D. Bittinger. With each purchase in the store, visitors are not only supporting the Museum but they’re also helping to support the local communities around us. The next time you’re at the Museum or you’re looking for a gift for someone special, consider making a purchase at the Museum Store. It’s just another one of the many ways you can help support the Museum and support the local communities around us.