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Unusual finds at museum gift shops

Festive items from the Museum of Modern Art

Festive items from the Museum of Modern Art include Nahui Ollin's recycled candy-wrapper clutches ($95), a fringed, rainbow-striped Pop-Art Shima scarf ($48), recycled Tyvek wallets, made from the paper-like material used in home insulation and Haz-Mat suits -- perfect for cool young dudes who don't want a traditional wallet ($15) -- or these polyurethane Calumet watches by Alessi ($70, all at momastore.org or call 800-447-6662). Photo Credit: Handout

Most of us, whether into museums or not, can't get out of one without perusing the gift shop. No surprise - they're placed by the exit, like those cinnamon buns at Ikea. Hard to resist.

Especially for savvy shoppers who know that museums are the best kept holiday secret when it comes to finding unusual gifts - not to mention avoiding the crowds at the malls.

"Visitors buying several items often point to one, saying, 'I'm keeping this for myself'," notes Cynthia Shor, executive director of the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site in Huntington.

Walt's place offers historic toys - trains, whistles, Jacob's Ladder - along with books for adults, plus loot with a literary theme, from quill pens to mouse pads.

The Children's Museum of the East End, in Bridgehampton, had closed its gift shop. It reopened last May, run by MoonSoup, an educational toy shop in Manhattan. The place is stocked with goods dedicated to children's development. "We're not just selling T-shirts," says MoonSoup co-founder Ashish Rajadhyaksha.

"We're a beautiful site," says Whitman's Shor. "People are often struck by that once they arrive."

Here are just some of the best shops in the region, where you can visit in person, online or both.

Guild Hall

East Hampton

631-324-0806; guildhall.org

Send your kid back to college with a poster of L.I. in simpler times (Homer Winslow's "East Hampton Beach," 1874, $20) or grab art books, prints, a "Where the Wild Things Are" floor puzzle, or this cool Danish rubber vase that changes shape depending on the flower arrangement, $35.95.

 

Nassau County Museum of Art

Roslyn Harbor

516-625-4351;

nassaumuseum.org for info only

Find one-of-a-kind works by local artists (like Jane Irvine's glass and stainless steel piece, $750), plus paintings, pottery, jewelry, accessories, mobiles, blown glass, furniture and note cards made by students in their autism program ($20 for 10, proceeds benefit "Autism Art" classes).

Museum of Modern Art

Manhattan

800-447-6662; or momastore.org

One of the best shops anywhere, with several locations. We like the fringed, Pop-Art Shima scarf ($48), recycled Tyvek wallets, made of the stuff used in home insulation and Haz-Mat suits - perfect for dudes who don't want a traditional wallet ($15) - or these polyurethane Calumet watches by Alessi, $70 each.

Children's Museum of the East End

Bridgehampton

631-613-6505; moonsoup.net

Get clever kid gear, from marker sets ($2 and up) to a mini wooden piano ($75) or real easel (with art supplies and brushes, about $95), plus books, cookie kits and soft toys like this First Play Flower Pot, $25.

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Manhattan

212-849-8355; cooperhewittshop.org

This division of the Smithsonian stocks the famed New York Deli Cup (a ceramic version, $14), a Rocko Flake Sled (made of recycled plastic, $12) and this scrunched-up Japanese Kusha tote, made of polylactic corn fibers, $52.

 

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Manhattan

800-468-7386

store.metmuseum.org

Their site lets you search for gifts in various ways: price, artist or period, and explains the history behind each. For mini Monets, we love the Art Box ($64.99); for women, a gold snake bracelet ($85), based on Egyptian designs from around 300 BC; for men, 18th century armor inspired these Fleur-de-Lis cuff links, $125.

 

Walt Whitman Birthplace

State Historic Site

Huntington

631-427-5240; waltwhitman.org for info only

Walt was born here 190 years ago - today you'll find his books, plus toys, quill pens ($1.50), jigsaw puzzles ($8.95), walking sticks ($23 and up), and an "Author! Author!" silk tie with signatures of Whitman, Frost, Poe and other scribes, $30.

 

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