Culture24 guide to online Christmas shopping 2012: The Best Museum and Gallery shops online

| 04 December 2012
website screenshot of the Tate online shop homepage
Tate's online shop - just one of the top destinations for internet Christmas shopping this year

It really is last chance saloon for your Christmas shopping. But if you get your skates on you still have time for express delivery in this guide to the best in museum and gallery online Christmas shopping...

Art and design gallery shops online

a screenshot from the pallant gallery bookshop online showing three book covers
Books, beautiful books at Pallant Bookshop...
The V&A

Like the Amazon of online museum gift shops, the V&A offers an amazing range of design-led products.

You can shop by product, theme, or artist and the print-on-demand service plunders the many posters, prints and designs in the V&A archives – an A3 starts at £25 or you can get something framed for about £100. Eminently browseable, this is a class act.
We Like: Black Raven Inspired by Hitchcock (£7.99)
. It would be a strange child who would like it, but it  gives you an idea of the kind of thing the V&A goes in for.

Pallant House Gallery Bookshop

For our money, this is probably the best online art bookshop in the UK, offering a surprisingly comprehensive dig into the fine stock at Pallant.

There are also some super exclusive prints, a variety of rare and out-of-print books and some highly desirable Lucienne Day fabrics, but it’s the range of art books that really excites, with lots of bargains mixed in for good measure. The only problem here is staying focused on buying for others.
We Like: Edward Burra (hardback - down to £28). A fitting accompaniment to Pallant’s 2011 exhibition. 

The National Portrait Gallery

Books and fine art portraits are, unsurprisingly, the stars of the show here. But the NPG also goes in for some highly unusual jewellery, happily ranging from the stylishly expensive to the affordably urbane.

The print-on-demand service is possibly one of the largest out there, offering 75,000 different portraits in a number of different formats for as little as £12.50 per print. For more inspiration, head to the gift ideas section for mugs, busts, satchels, sunglasses, Tudor stacking dolls and all manner of stocking fillers and gift ideas.

We like: Small China Palette Brooch (£6.50). A beautiful little brooch based on the tiny painting pallete of the father of Sir George Scharf - the NPG's first director.


A funky gallery store if there ever was one, BALTIC's online shop is a similarly groovy place with design-led products ranging from beautiful Rob Ryan vases to retro Baby Lapin night lights.

The prints section throws up a few surprises, with posters and limited editions ranging in price from £2 to £495. The books offer an intelligent medley of what’s on offer in the shop, while the kids’ Christmas gift ideas are full of cool and kitsch stocking fillers.

We Like: Graffiti Colouring Book (£4.99).
He’s only eight, he’s got the skateboard, he’s got the hoody...

The online version of the bustling Tate shops serves up the vast range of Tate products - and a few more things. It is surprisingly good for homeware and jewellery and makes a great virtual port of call for stocking fillers.

The bookshop is a cracker, with everything from Tate publishing available. Similarly, the selection of prints isn’t at all bad, with small oak framed giclées coming in at £70 (£20 without a frame). Print-on-demand is dominated by pre-20th century artworks (lots of Turners) ranging from £25 upwards. Or you could go for a vintage Picasso lithograph starting at £45 and rising to a grand or two.

We Like: The Tate Teapot (£25). This two cuppa teapot used in the Tate cafes is a design classic already.

Design Museum

Designer jewellery, chic accessories, stylish homeware...the Design Museum online shop has some beautiful gifts, as you would expect from London’s museum of international contemporary design.

With a site full of Eames coat hangers and designer angle poise lamps, it doesn't come cheap. But then neither does good design.
We Like:  Sky Planter (£25.50). Grow your own herbs - or flowers - with this trendy upside down kitchen gizmo.

National Gallery

Another impressive online operation that includes painting-themed wine and champagne, homeware options embracing stylish vases and Murano goblets and a very impressive online bookshop selection allowing you to browse by subject and theme.

The print-on-demand service offers more than 2,000 paintings as prints, framed prints or on canvas.

We like: Bosch: Headfooter Figurine (£27). A hand-painted art sculpture from Hieronymus Bosch's painting, The Last Judgement.

History, heritage and museum shops online

a photo of three mugs with the words Blimey, Crikey and Righto on them
Blimey, Crikey and Righto mugs at Imperial War Museum shop...

The Ashmolean

Yet another impressive print-on-demand-and-frame service could see you secure a William Blake or Samuel Palmer classic, all framed up, for 65 quid.

Elsewhere the Ashmolean draws on its collection to offer some fun Edward Lear gifts including alphabet magnets, a range of classy necklaces and pendants copied from their own holding of Egyptian treasures. Silk outerwear - including opulent wraps and evening jackets - reference the museum’s Japanese ornamental textiles.

We Like: The Peacock Trinket Box (£5). A bargain little stocking filler for lovers of little sparkly things.

London Transport Museum

London Transport Museum’s online shop may have virtual visitors thinking they have pitched up at IKEA – you can purchase everything here from sofas and settees to sugar bowls and print sets.

The poster collection is justly famous, with several design classics. The kids' section has everything from Thomas the Tank Engine to classic wooden train sets.

We Like: The London Underground Boxer Shorts (£9). Stylish and, potentially, quite useful stocking filler...

Imperial War Museum

An excellent online shopping site with clear navigation. But what makes this site stand out is the range of stock, which can flit from Airfix kits to forties style jewellery with an ease which will have many a Christmas shopper clicking “add to basket” this December.

The print and frame service, meanwhile, is possibly one of the best out there, with a surprising range of photography and posters on offer - or you can just head straight to IWM prints for a massive range of photography and posters ready to be printed up to your specification.

We like: 'Blimey', 'Crikey' and 'Righto' Mugs (£8.99 each). A bit of chirpy forties nostalgia printed with a cool typeface.

English Heritage

Plenty of ideas for the heritage buffs on this clean and easily navigated website. Eclecticism is the keyword: whether it's an 18th century suit of armour, a William Morris tapestry or a Stonehenge snow globe the selection is innovative, surprising and full of fun. Lots of food and booze on there too.

We Like: English Heritage Celtic Mead (£8.99). For the Celtic warrior in the family, or as English Heritage put it: "An ideal accompaniment for dessert and cheese…"

National Railway Museum

From Hornby train sets to Flying Scotsman-related merchandise, this is the place to come if you have someone in mind who loves his (or her) railways and steam heritage.

Admittedly there are some pretty minty scale models on offer here, perhaps catering to a level of enthusiasm beyond many budgets. But there are also some classy but highly affordable items, ranging from a cool metal coffee pot to a Sotsman hip flask.
We like: York LNER Station Clock (£30). A classic and reassuringly sensible looking timepiece.

a photo of four carved chess pieces from the Lewis Chessmen set Courtesy National Museums Scotland
The Lewis Chessmen are the stars of the National Museums Scotland online shop...
National Museums Scotland

The Lewis Chessmen feature heavily in a collection of gifts drawing on the varied collections and artworks held in the outposts of National Museums Scotland.

There are Braveheart Tartan Wool Ties, miniature busts of Egyptian gods (very reasonably priced at £3.50), Scots dialect coaster sets and Kells Sporran Flasks hidden amid this varied site. Don’t forget to head to the bookstore for some timely pre-Christmas discounts.  

We Like: Lewis Chessman Berserker Full-Scale Replica Chess Piece (£11.99). An obvious choice perhaps, but this little fella makes for a lovely ornament.

Royal Air Force Museum

From Airfix kits to classic dvds, the RAF Museum’s shop serves up some great gift ideas. You can splash out and buy bespoke Battle of Britain-style furniture, or indulge the enthusiast engineer in the family with a Spitfire Haynes manual.

There are also kids' clothes, RAF socks, books, Dad’s Army gifts and many other aviation-themed treasures.

We Like: Do You Really Think That’s Wise? Dad's Army Fridge Magnet (£1.99). The great Sergeant Wilson’s catch phrase is a salutary reminder of the perils of pompous impulsiveness.

British Museum

As you might expect, you can get some seriously posh gifts here, such as reproductions of their famous artworks including Egyptian bronzes, Roman busts and frieze fragments.

But a flick through the jewellery, sculpture and books sections and the many popular themed searches reveals all manner of bargains and gift ideas, from a Newton Gravity defying puzzle to a Hamlet-themed kindle cover. The prints section features some classic images, with a neat frame finder to help you finish it off.

We Like: Blue Feather Quill and Ink Set (£30). A refreshingly old-fashioned gift in this age of email and txts...

Tyne and Wear Museums

From a metal street sign for St James Park to a 3-d Puzzle of the Penshaw Monument, the life, loves, and art of Geordies and Mackems provide plenty of gift ideas here.

Check the jewellery courtesy of the Laing Art Gallery and a decent print section, which mines a fine local collection of oils and watercolours.

We Like: Newcastle Shake Globe (£5). Snow on the Tyne all mine all mine…

British Library bookshop

Anyone who has visited the British Library Bookshop will know it as a dangerous place to try and emerge from with funds intact. The online version may not be a slick as some. but it offers hundreds of book titles via browseable sections covering everything from art and design to facsimiles.

Over in the gifts section there are literary looking scarves and elephant book ends or classic book cover posters and foldaway book rests. And if spoken word is your thing, look no further than the audio books section.

We Like:  Sounds of the Night: An Audio Guide to Britain’s Nocturnal Species (£10). “Eerie screams, quiet snufflings, and snippets of song are just some of the wildlife sounds that can be heard after dark.” 'nuff said.

Science and Nature Museum shops online

a screenshot from the Science Museum websiote showing a selection of gizmos and gadgets
Gizmos and gadgets at the Science Museum shop...

Natural History Museum

Solar powered planes and choppers, make-your-own-volcano kits and pull back and release tarantulas make this a little boy's dream, as well as a useful place for parents in search of that elusive blend of entertainment and education.
Elsewhere, the print and frame service makes the most of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, and the dinosaur replica skulls (hand-finished with technical guidance from Museum palaeontologists) make for novel if somewhat speicalised gift ideas.

We like: The Jurassic Parka (£30). A brilliant kid's rain jacket. "Raaaaaarghhhhh..." etc.

The Science Museum

Another great place to find presents for kids and gadget lovers, the Science Museum online shop manages to be both hip and reassuringly old-school.

It’s got classic gifts such as telescopes, robots and chemistry kits, or you can hit the Inner Child and Gadget Guru sections for spy camera pens, square beam torches, cosmic thruster foam ball guns and all sorts of innovative ideas for big kids and tech geeks. Cool, clear, contemporary and very impressive indeed.

We Like: The Science Museum Doodling Robot (£15). Damien Hirst step aside – now we can all make auto-art...

Want a few more?


Own Art The Arts Council’s loan scheme to let you buy affordable art.

Culture Label The online shop for the arts with several museum and galleries providing top class products.

Milton Keynes Gallery Cool books, limited edition prints.

IKON Gallery Cool books and prints.

Whitechapel Gallery Some neat books and trendy gifts and prints.

Henry Moore Foundation Great books, lovely prints.

Compton Verney Books, stationery, jewellery - and handmade soap.

Animate Projects Prints, artworks, books and DVDs.

The Hepworth Wakefield Prints, books, scarves, homeware.

Children's books:

Seven Stories Bookshop A taster of the many children’s books in their fine bookshop.


National Army Museum Books, prints, clothing, dvds.

National Archives Bookshop History books, diaries and gift ideas.

National Trust Gifts, clothing, books, hampers, homeware.
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