A warm Welsh wool blanket - rather seasonal. Courtesy National Museums Wales
The quirky, the beautiful, the dubious in taste and the kid friendly – it is amazing what you can find on sale at museums, galleries and heritage sites. We’ve packed up a few of these things in alphabetical wrapping for you to peruse before you head out to do your Christmas shopping in 2007.
A is for art books – an excellent choice for gallery-goers. Newcastle’s Laing Art Gallery is holding a special book fair from November 30 to December 9 2007 with many on sale at half price, and there’s sure to be a rather good selection at a gallery near you.
A is also for the Architecture Centre in Bristol, where the shop sells such a great range it's got its own Christmas catalogue.. The Sparrowkids felt craft kits are very nifty, and the Snowden Flood dinner set, printed urban scenes, is rather unusual.
An arty book from Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
B is for badges by artists from Ikon in Birmingham - great for teens or trendy young badge-wearing things. The ‘Look behind you!’ badge by Cornelia Parker is just 50p, and you can get them online. Check out the crazy range of Monster Toys by local maker Paul Roberts, too - not for squirmish infants.
C is for Cat’s Whiskers – the name given to the blue and white striped diesel Deltic Prototype, a limited edition model of which you can acquire for rail buffs from the National Railway Museum in York, or by mail order.
And it's for camouflage ovengloves, and a camouflage apron you can try and use to hide from the Christmas day washing up - available from the Imperial War Museum North (Manchester).
Monster Toys by West Midlands maker Paul Roberts, from Ikon.
D is for dung – elephant dung turned into paper, available from the Natural History Museum store. Warning – once you get into the NHM online shop, you’ll find it difficult to drag yourself away from goodies like the Moon in My Room, which brings lunar phases indoors.
E is for Explosion Ale, three bottles of which you can find in ammunition boxes made of redundant timber by volunteers at Gosport’s Museum of Naval Firepower, Explosion!
And we couldn't leave out the Executioner model from Historic Royal Palaces shops, which allows smaller fans of the grisly side of British history to build their very own Elizabethan head chopping tableau.
Hours of fun from this build-your-own executioner. Courtesy Historic Royal Palaces
F is for fair trade goods from World Museum Liverpool, from delicious coffees to African instruments.
And fridge magnets from the Scott Polar Research Institute Museum in Cambridge, featuring frozen landscapes by Herbert Ponting taken on Captain Scott's ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic in 1910-13.
G is for Glasgow, where you’ll find hip homeware and gifts at The Lighthouse, chart-topping gifts in the Kylie Shop at Kelvingrove (to go with the exhibition on the popstress), and Corgi model trams and buses in Glasgow livery from the Museum of Transport.
Or it could be for sculptor Gaudier-Brzeska, and his 1914 ‘Toy’ sculpture. A number of hand-finished casts have been made of the abstract form, now on sale at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge (£27.50, plus p&p by mail order). Despite only sculpting for four years before he was killed in action in 1915, Henri Gaudier had a lasting influence on the artform in modernist circles.
Explosion! Ale - nicely presented.
H is for Hallelujah wrapping paper from the Handel House Museum, featuring manuscript writing from Handel’s Messiah. Looks fantastic with red ribbon and is a snip at three sheets for £1.
I is for internet shopping. You can visit many museum and gallery shops virtually, don’t forget, but get in there early. We're fond of the fayre from the British Library, English Heritage and the Imperial War Museum.
And for Ironbridge Gorge Museum's special white mohair teddy bear, the heartmelting 'Icicle', on sale in its Merrythought shop alongside other special teddies. From December 7, Ironbridge's Coalport China Museum shop will be having its annual 25 per cent off sale - a must if you're buying for a ceramics collector.
A pint-sized terracotta warrior from the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath.
J is for jewellery, in particular the fine stuff designed by real craftspeople – try Bilston Craft Gallery in the West Midlands or over the Christmas period. Then there are pieces inspired by museum artefacts, (like the British Museum’s Samurai flower set, £40-£70), and the surprising, like the bright ‘vegetable ivory’ bracelets (£15) from Glasgow’s Lighthouse.
K is for Kinetica, which sells fantastic items like kits to create your own mechanical moving card toy (£4.95, various designs) and waterproof spa lights you can stick inside your bath (£8.95). Buy online at http://kinetica-museum.org/store.
A Herbert Ponting shot, appropriately mounted on a fridge magnet. From the Scott Polar Research Institute Museum and Archives shop.
L is for leech jar. Replica medicine jars available exclusively at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain Museum.
It’s also for late night shopping at a string of places – Kew Gardens (December 14 and 15 until 9pm), Bilston Craft Gallery (December 5 until 9pm), Manx Museum (December 12 until 7.30pm and 14 until 9pm) and Newcastle’s Shipley Art Gallery (until 8pm on December 6) to name but a few.
Cheery guardsmen skittles from the Royal Collection.
M is for medieval Christmas market at Dragon Hall in Norwich, which will feature costumed traders, jesters, musicians and entertainers (10am-5pm, December 8 and 9; £2.50/£1 entry). There's also one on the same weekend at Caerphilly Castle in Wales.
N is for novelty socks – Mansfield Museum staff wear theirs all year round!
And for Night Mail - a remastered DVD version of the classic GPO documentary with poetry by WH Auden and a Benjamin Britten soundtrack is available from December 5 from the British Postal Museum, or online from the BFI shop.
A classic documentary to watch time and time again - the Night Mail. Courtesy the British Postal Museum and Archive
O is for the Old Operating Theatre Museum’s really rather bad taste offerings for people who like to shock – syringe shape pens, Elephant Man posters and cuddly toys in the shape of bacteria from the common cold to the clap!
P is for paint your own apron kit and peg dolls for boys, available at Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery alongside some lovely contemporary crafts.
Leeches not included - replica jars from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Museum.
Q is for quince jelly and all the interesting local foods you can find on sale at stately homes and historical country residences open to the public, which will make for scrumptious hampers.
The National Trust has put together gift sets of special sauces and pates (£14 each), and Gilbert White’s House in Hampshire sells its own medlar jelly (it’s recommended to try the 18th century recipe mince pies in the tea parlour, too). The Museum of Oxford has a range of Elizabethan England style fare on sale to complement its Tudor exhibition, which is open until 9.30pm on December 7 (as is the shop).
R is for Royal Collection shops (at the Queen’s Gallery, London, Holyrood House and Buckingham Palace as well as online), where you can lay your hands on the cheerful guardsman skittles (£19.95) and all manner of regal items.
You can't go wrong with socks, and this design from Mansfield Museum is rather jaunty.
S is for space food stocking fillers, available from the National Space Centre shop in Leicester. Freeze-dried Neapolitan ice cream, anyone?
Actually, make mine a Scotch whisky. Two limited edition single malts from the Dallas Dhu distillery have been launched by Historic Scotland. If you get in quick, you can order online one of the 261 bottles of the 23-year-old, 46 per cent version, or opt for the 24-year-old Cask Strength version (590 bottles, 56.3 per cent proof). A proper winter warmer.
T is for Terracotta Army – while the full size version is at the British Museum, you can pick up slightly less frightening miniature warriors at the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath.
It's also for trug - one of those lovely traditional style gardener's baskets, which you can obtain ready packed with perfect gifts for the green-fingered from the Museum of Garden History shop in Lambeth. Do some late night shopping at the museum on November 30, December 7 and 20 until 8pm, and receive 15 per cent off your purchases.
A birdy bag to make at home, by Sparrowkids and available at the Architecture Centre.
U is for Urbis in Manchester. If you know someone nostalgic for the Hacienda nightclub, find them related gifts here while the Hac' exhibition is on.
V is for vouchers – how about for the ‘Spas Ancient and Modern’ package (£60) at Bath’s Roman Baths, which includes a Thermae Bath Spa, a ticket to the museum and a three-course meal in the Pump Room? Or lay out the equally respectable sum of five pounds on a token that can be spent somewhere cultural by your giftee.
For lovers of rugged scenery, go for a token that can be used for a Shetland Lighthouse holiday, and the lucky recipient might stay at Sumburgh, constructed by the grandfather of author Robert Louis Stevenson in 1821. These are available from the Shetland Amenity Trust that runs the islands' Museum and Archives - also a good place to stop and shop for local craft products.
Sumburgh Lighthouse in the Shetlands - not a bad view, eh? Courtesy Shetland Amenity Trust
W is for warm blankets made of Welsh wool. Pick them up in a range of traditional patterns from the National Museum Wales shops.
X is for X-rated toys from the Barbican to go with the show Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now. Bone, an adult toy designed by Tom Dixon, is inspired by ancient fertility symbols, and then there are saucy delights such as Pia Knight’s nipple badges.
You might come across a frosty Anglo-Saxon scarecrow at West Stow's Yule Fest.
Y is for Yule - the midwinter celebration of the Celts and Vikings that is now synonymous with Christmas. For some Celtic flavoured presents, try West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village, where you can pick up rather nice replica glassware, pottery and Anglo-Saxon style metalware.
Z is for zzzzzzzzzzzz… That’s the sound of little ones on Christmas Eve after a nice bedtime story chosen from the bookshop at Seven Stories centre for children’s books (Newcastle), or from the Roald Dahl Museum (Buckinghamshire), or the V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green.
Badge by artist Cornelia Parker, from the Ikon gallery shop.
While this is an A-Z, it’s certainly not a comprehensive list of what you can find on those museum, gallery or science centre shop shelves – it's well worth making a trip to see what else there is.
Thanks to all the museums, galleries, science centres and heritage site staff who contributed to this guide.