museums&MORE Spring 2017
Olde New York By Sam Ujvary

Big Apple’s oldest museum finds ways to be on the cutting edge

Founded in 1804, New-York Historical Society is the oldest museum in New York City. With a self-proclaimed mission to “explore the richly layered political, cultural and social history of New York City and State and the nation, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history,” it’s a renowned institution that features a wide variety of exhibitions, accommodating every type of patron who visits. These include exhibitions that shaped the local area to the story of Alexander Hamilton, a man who continues to be all the rage lately.

Much like the building itself, the Historical Society’s exhibits continue to evolve along with history. The museum’s architects, York and Sawyer, were known for building banks. Until renovations in 2011, the framework resembled the hermetic design of vault-like buildings. It’s no surprise the building would have a shop that evolves right along with it. “From a time decades ago being housed in a closet-sized alcove until today, the NYHistory Store has grown, roamed among several locations within the building, received three major remodels and has periodically added satellite shops among the galleries,” said Ione Saroyan, director of merchandise operations, NYHistory Store at the New-York Historical Society.

Museum stores often reflect their times as assertively as they do their disciplines. According to Saroyan, the dynamic ways the NYHistory Store can propel the New-York Historical Society’s energy and heritage in the marketplace is evident in the new immersive experience provided by the remodeled and re-imagined. Its new design, ambience, product assortment and customer service are all key factors that contribute to this unique experience. The new Parliament Café and NYHistory Store retail spaces allow shoppers to flow easily into the shop from the museum galleries or from the café. The store fixtures are elegant, sophisticated, and versatile, allowing merchandisers to accommodate concurrent special exhibition and general theme displays, and as such, be ready to feature any and all product categories related to a particular topic.

So how did the store that fosters a curiosity of antiquities get its start? “The reason we even have retail is because of one of our paintings, The Bear Dance; people wanted it,” Anthony L. Mulvey-Reyes, a sales rep for the museum store shared with me on a recent visit. “That’s how the current store got started.”

The goal of the NYHistory Store is to be a destination shop for history-lovers. Its objective is to offer members, visitors and New Yorkers — both lifelong and transplant — a store where they can find carefully curated — often exclusive — products with compelling American history stories. “When anyone thinks about giving a gift to someone who loves history, they should think of the NYHistory Store,” said Saroyan.

Rich, vivid stories of American history are brought to life through the exhibitions and subsequent merchandise offered at the NYHistory Store. Hard-to-find history and exhibition-related gifting items are selected for aesthetics, utility in service to history, exhibition, and collection-based themes.

Sam Ujvary

Sam is the managing editor of Gift Shop Pets, Museums & More and Party & Halloween Retailer, and is a contributing editor for Gift Shop Magazine. She has a copywriting background and has been in publishing for six years.

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