The giving spirit of Father Christmas lives on in the 24 Hour Museum Christmas shopping trail. Courtesy Ironbridge Gorge Museum.
That midwinter festival of cheer and gift-giving is upon us again, so without further ado, let the 24 Hour Museum guide you to the paradise of Christmas present shopping in UK museums.
How many presents will be useful every day of the next year? There’s one that will be – a calendar. Practical, yes, but that doesn’t mean boring, especially with the range available from museums all over the country. All the calendars listed below are available by mail order: click the links to go to the online shops.
First up, we reckon the Tank Museum’s offering, featuring the Tiger, Challenger 2 and Valentine DD would take pride of place on a military vehicle fan’s wall – order it online at www.tankmuseum.co.uk (£5.99).
Still on a military tip, but cuter, is the Animals’ War calendar (£.9.99) from the Imperial War Museum, including many images from the exhibition of the same name.
The Crich Tramway Village 2007 calendar. Courtesy Crich Tramway Village
The vintage tram imagery in Crich Tramway Village’s first calendar (£5 + £1 p&p) will no doubt be popular, too, having been launched this year in response to visitors’ requests. See www.tramway.co.uk for mail ordering details.
Time-worn techniques for keeping your home in beautiful condition are given on each leaf of the National Trust’s Lavender and Laundry calendar (£5.99), while the Brontë Country Calendar (£8.99) from the Brontë Parsonage Museum will also conjure thoughts of traditions from the past.
Glimpse a far away land in the Gurkha Museum’s People & Places of Nepal calendar (£5.50), or get a feel for exotic patterns with the V&A’s Palace & Mosque calendar (£10) adorned with designs from the newly-opened Jameel Gallery.
Views of a slightly closer land can be yours with the Cadw calendar. Buy two of these, featuring Welsh landscapes and historic buildings, and you’ll receive a fold-out Cadw map and gazetteer for free (£18.40 including p&p)!
Last but not least, the fine art calendar is a joy to behold and a perfect opportunity to own a cheap reproduction of works in gallery collections – see Tate’s and the Royal Academy’s offerings, for example (both £9.99). The National Portrait Gallery has a Hockney calendar for 2007 and the National Gallery one that ties in with its Velazquez exhibition (£10), while the Hunterian in Glasgow celebrates its famous son, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (£3.99).
IWM's Animals' War calendar. Courtesy IWM
Alternatively, the National Gallery allows you to create your own calendar for £15, picking paintings for each month from a wide selection. The Create Your Own facility helps you along, with paintings under headed sections such as Autumn or Impressionist.
If calendars are a bit on the obvious side and you’d rather get out there in a present-buying mood, seek out a selling exhibition at your local museum or gallery.
The Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead is holding its annual selling exhibition, Christmas Present, until January 7 2007, where visitors can find jewellery, ceramics, textiles and glassware by sought-after makers. Featured works include image-based jewellery by Bronwen Deane, who combines traditional silver working and innovative acrylic methods, and Paddy Killer’s textile artworks, which combine drawing, painting and embroidery.
Sheffield’s Millennium Galleries are also holding their annual craft and design selling fair, Christmas Crackers, from now until January 7 2007, open late until 8pm on Wednesdays until December 20.
Angus Clyne, spalted beech vase - the kind of one-off works you'll find at the Shipley's Christmas Present 2006. Courtesy Shipley Gallery
Everything from handmade kaleidoscopes to Icelandic lava jewellery will be for sale at Guildford House Gallery until December 23, when the Surrey Guild of Craftsmen will sell wares in the Garden Room.
Other art and craft selling exhibitions coming in on the 24 Hour Museum radar are to be found at Tunbridge Wells Museum (until December 21); Mission Gallery, Swansea (until December 30); Broadfield House Glass Museum, Dudley; The Beacon, Cumbria and Shire Hall Gallery, Stafford (all until January 7).
Carol singers at Blists Hill Victorian town. Courtesy Ironbridge
Update! A little bird (a robin, perhaps?) has come along with news of even more exciting arts, crafts and festive fairs.
The Royal Cambrian Academy in Conwy will be selling five works of art by its late President, Sir Kyffin Williams in its Christmas exhibition. The selling show runs until December 23 and includes artworks from some of Wales' greatest contemporary artists together with craft pieces from all over North Wales.
The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, is pushing its limited edition prints by the likes of Callum Innes and Keith Farquhar as the perfect gift (£100 unframed, £150 framed, contact gallery for full range).
ArtSway, Hampshire, has dubbed its craft shop exhibition (running until December 20) 're(new)' - it's a showcase of designers who use vintage and reclaimed materials in stunning accessories, homeware and jewellery, promoting ethical consumer choices.
If, amongst all these incredibly special and one-off gifts, you still haven’t found something your loved one hasn’t already got, what do you do? Go for the worthy option and give a goodwill gift that will help to look after our heritage.
The British Library has recently launched the Adopt a Book scheme, whereby a donation of £25 or more will go towards the conservation of a literary treasure. Choose from books in 14 different categories to personalise it for your adopter – a Boys’ Own Annual from 1914, perhaps, or do you know someone who would be tickled with a share of the 1844 publication Farming for Ladies? Go to www.bl.ac.uk/adoptabook for details.
The National Trust is running a similar scheme, in which your money will go towards conserving either trees at Croft Castle, red squirrels or the Hardwick Tapestry (all from £10). See Goodwill Gifts on the National Trust online shop for exactly what’s included beyond the certificate.
The gift of giving - donate to the National Trust and help our native red squirrels, on behalf of your giftee! Courtesy National Trust
If they got in a fight, which would you put your money on - the high street toyshop or a museum shop? Well it goes without saying that 24 Hour Museum’s bet is on the latter. Let’s look at their ammunition…
The Science Museum shop just never fails to come up with the goods. Be it the soft globe of the Hugg a Planet (£24.99), the famous scientist fingerpuppets (set includes Einstein, Marie Curie, Newton and Darwin, £14.99), or Robo-Bugs you can control with the television remote (£24.99), something here will make the little ones’ eyes light up. Also a shop strongly recommended for big kids.
Speaking of fingerpuppets – you’d be surprised what comes in puppet form at museum shops. There’s the Freud fingerpuppet from the Freud Museum (£5.50), animal sounds fingerpuppets from the National Trust (£14.99) and the plague rat glove puppet from the Museum of London (£11.99)! English Heritage’s royalty puppets (£35) come with their own theatre.
Slightly gruesome, but very educational, the Natural History Museum’s anatomy sets include one showing the organs (£16.19), a giant skeleton (£12.15), a skull and skeletal hand (both £10.80).
The larger than life plague rat glove puppet! Courtesy Museum of London
Tyne and Wear Museums have got a couple of crackers that will make the kids feel like James Bond. The only problem with the walkie-talkie watches (£19.95) and the sonic probe long-range listening device (£12.95) is that they could enable the little darlings to spy on you.
If you’re worried about that, you might want to steer clear of the spyglasses (£3) from the Imperial War Museum, too. The Truth Machine (£29.99), also from IWM, should certainly be saved for adults.
Even grown-ups like to have a James Bond experience, so the Fleet Air Arm Museum are obliging with the Cockpit Special. That is, someone special to you could be sitting in the cockpit of a plane after spending an afternoon behind the scenes at the museum being personally guided by the curator. The price tag is £95 – which could include sitting at the controls to Concorde. For more information, contact the Museum.
This just in! To soar really high above the other gifts given, obtain some flying experience vouchers from the Imperial War Museum Duxford. Find details of this uplifting idea at www.classic-wings.co.uk.
And... Crich Tramway Village are competing with the Ultimate Driving Experience. Contact the museum to find out how you can give the gift of a tram driving experience.
And back to gadgets: did you know you could get designer USB memory sticks? Well you can, at the Design Museum, which has ones with rubber ducks that light up when they’re plugged into the port (512MB for £37.50, 1GB £53) or one-off wooden ‘stick’ sticks (256MB, £45).
Imagine his face on Christmas morning when he finds out he's going on the Cockpit Special. Courtesy Fleet Air Arm Museum
For the wannabe Banksy, Gateshead’s BALTIC has just the thing. Graffiti stencils (£5.95) in various designs will make spray painting that much easier for the less artistic.
Also from the BALTIC shop, the Christine Keeler chair (£29.95), featuring her infamous 1963 nude pose on an Arne Jacobsen chair, could make quite a conversation piece.
Jewellery and accessories
Now how about some properly feminine gift ideas?
The Florence Nightingale Museum has teamed up with a Jermyn Street shop where the lady with the lamp used to go for a treat. Floris, purveyors of fine fragrances since the mid-18th century, are now selling a range of scented products from the museum shop, which can also be ordered online (prices start at £10.17).
Renaissance relief, on a long-sleeved top. Courtesy the V&A
The V&A, meanwhile, has added a touch of the Renaissance to a t-shirt. The lace collar long-sleeved t-shirt (£26), is rather unusual, and there are lots more beautiful things available online for special ladies in your life.
Back at the English Heritage online shop, you’ll find some unusual jewellery. The silver Stonehenge alignment pendant (£9.99), gold trilithon pendant (£29.99) and other henge-inspired accessories just won’t be found anywhere else!
The National Maritime Museum is obviously aiming at a slightly more exclusive market with its astral themed jewellery, but the Jupiter earrings, brooch and bangle (£45-£175) are very striking. Check out the amber-set sun range as well (from £50).
Likewise, the National Gallery’s ranges, including pieces based on Monet’s Waterlilies (£35-£160), are just gorgeous.
Jupiter brooch, from the National Maritime Museum. Courtesy NMM
20th century abstract art also gets the earring and necklace treatment at the Tate shop, which is offering a range inspired by Terry Frost’s colourful works at a snip (£12-£20).
Odds and sods
Some gifts just defy categorisation.
Take the replica miners lamps (£29.50/£42) from the National Coal Mining Museum, or the nostalgic posters from the London Transport Museum promoting the likes of day trips to Kew in the 1930s (£4.95). A Christmas tipple can even be bought from a museum, like the Hereford Cider Museum’s cider brandy or apple aperitif (contact museum for prices).
Why haven’t we mentioned books yet? For specialist titles and beautifully illustrated works, museums and galleries are definitely where it’s at. The English Landscape series from English Heritage, in eight regional volumes (£30 each), distils the many fascinating elements that have created today’s England and features specially commissioned photography.
London Transport Museum have a snazzy range of vintage posters. Courtesy London Transport Museum
Bringing the outdoors indoors we have the Natural History Museum’s singing bird clock (£22), and St Fagans Museum in Wales goes off on a sustainable living tangent with recycled handbags and belts, organic soaps and additive-free Welsh food products, in keeping with its green building Tŷ Gwyrdd (contact museum for mail ordering details).
Last but by no means least, there’s a special tea towel that deserves a mention. The Manchester Victoria Baths tea towel (£4) is printed with a 1938 sign giving prices for a wash back then. A bit of a curiosity, it’s also rather chic for kitchenware.
Have we covered everything? Have we hell! Cultural consumables are almost as varied as museum collections, so to find just the thing, try searching the 24 Hour Museum database for museums with relevant collections and either have a look for their online shop, or give them a visit in person, throwing in a little Christmas shopping at the gift shop.