Art, history, science, and Lone Star culture are celebrated at museums both large and small across Texas’ 168 million acres, from the Tigua Indian Cultural Center in El Paso to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, from the Museums of Port Isabel to Amarillo’s Don Harrington Discovery Center.
And since it’s the season for gift-giving, make a point to consider the museum shop as a one-stop destination for loved ones on your list. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, it’s even possible to have treasures delivered directly to your front door.
Bullock Texas State History Museum Austin
What’s unique: Capitol Ornament Collection ($20 each or 10-piece set for $160)
Launched in 2006, this series of ornaments features designs based on architectural details of the Texas Capitol, from the distinctive bronze doorknobs to the rotunda floor. Other items available from the Bullock range in price from a $3 pack of bluebonnet seeds up to framed historic Texas flag reproduction for $995 and run the gamut from novelties and apparel to books, kitchen items, and home decor items.
National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature Abilene
What’s unique: Hardback children’s books signed by the illustrators ($13.99 -$40)
The NCCIL works with award-winning children’s book artists on exhibits of their artwork that has appeared in some of the genre’s best-loved titles. Following its showing at the NCCIL, each exhibition travels to museums, libraries, and galleries around the world. The museum’s permanent collection includes more than 150 pieces of original artwork. Most of the books for sale are either signed or have an attached signed bookplate.
Houston Museum of Natural Science
What’s unique: The extra-large Labradorite mineral heart ($595) is one part art, one part science, and a light-drawing object of beauty for any home.
Geek-chic clothing and accessories, pieces made from gems and minerals that are beautiful as well as practical, home decor and kitchen items, educational kits and toys, and all things dinosaur are featured in this truly amazing shop.
McDonald Observatory Fort Davis
What’s unique: Stellarscope, a portable kit to help view constellations in the night sky ($48.95)
For most Texans, a pilgrimage to see the stars from The University of Texas’s complex of powerful telescopes involves a daunting drive. Fortunately, the Observatory’s gift shop has plenty of merchandise to help pass the time at home until you can make the trip. Budding astronomers of any age will appreciate its distinctive offerings, which includes puzzles, books, apparel, and educational-but-fun items for all ages.
Amon Carter Museum of American Art Fort Worth
What’s unique: “P is for peanut,” an all-ages book featuring works from acclaimed photographers to illustrate the alphabet ($10.95).
Since 1961, Amon Carter has showcased an eclectic range of American masterworks. The museum’s gift shop is similarly diverse, featuring books, apparel and accessories, toys, art prints, stationary, home décor, and jewelry.
Perot Museum of Nature and Science Dallas
What’s unique: Plush toys that are a step beyond a run-of-the-mill teddy bear, including a cute and cuddly human heart (Big Heart, $12.97), mantis shrimp (Squishable Mantis Shrimp, $24.97), and space shuttle (NASA/Shuttle Peekaboo Plush Pillow, $29.99)
A dizzying array of dinosaur-, space-, and general science-related gifts make up the Perot’s inventory. Pick up a stocking-stuffer, or go big to the tune of $199.99 with a 3-foot-long Triceratops figure created from reclaimed driftwood.
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
What’s unique: Subtle yet dramatic, jeweler Tana Acton’s faceted hermatite cuff ($200) incorporates thread, silver wire, and blue beads in a piece that is as much a work of art as it is jewelry.
Ceramic, fiber arts, glass, metal, wood, and mixed-media jewelry, art pieces, vases, and decorative items are available from the HCCC’s shop, where bright colors are a common thread.
The Alamo San Antonio
What’s unique: The Davy Crockett nutcracker ($39.99) is a solid conversation starter
There’s something for almost everyone at the Cradle of Texas Liberty gift shop, including books and DVDs, clothing and accessories, toys and games, and all manner of Texana. No self-respecting Texas child should experience childhood without his or her own coonskin cap; buy one here for $12.99.
Kimbell Art Museum Fort Worth
What’s unique: The beloved Kimbell Cookbook ($30), a collection of 335 simple recipes from the museum’s director of food services, Shelby Schafer.
The Kimbell is an architecturally stunning and internationally recognized museum with a solid stable of works spanning ancient times through the 20th century. Its museum shop offerings reflect this, ranging from art books for kids and adults to distinctive jewelry and home decor pieces.
Dallas Museum of Art
What’s unique: Gerald Murphy’s “Watch” scarf ($68), a 35-inch silk square featuring the DMA featured artist’s abstract depiction of a timepiece’s inner workings in tones of blue, gray, yellow, black and brown.
Need a gift for the person who has everything? There aren’t many places other than the DMA gift shop where you can buy a bright orange plastic stool that looks like Big Bird’s legs. The Ergo Stool is just one of hundreds of truly original local crafts, home accessories, jewelry, and art available at this Dallas institution.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Houston
What’s unique: Hand-painted bracelet ($155). Each of these resin-coated aluminum and wood pieces is one of a kind.
The MFA takes its status as one of the largest museums in the United States seriously, striving to showcase a broad array of works from all mediums, time periods, and areas of the world. This eclectic body of art is well-reflected in the museum store’s large collection of curated items for sale.
McNay Art Museum San Antonio
What’s unique: Pass the time on road trips and learn something along the way with the Go Fish for Modern Artists card game and book ($14.95)
Though housed in a stately Spanish Colonial-Revival building constructed in 1926, the McNay was the state’s first modern art museum. Its collections include medieval, Renaissance and 19th- through 21st-century art in all mediums; the store offers items for the home, stationary and books, jewelry, apparel and kids’ items.
What’s unique: Signed and numbered limited-edition print of “Buffalo Soldiers: Planting of the Colors” by Burl Washington ($275).
Founded in 2000 by a Vietnam veteran and African-American military historian, Houston’s museum dedicated to the Buffalo Soldiers, all-black army regiments formed just after the Civil War is the only major museum of its kind in the U.S. The museum shop features art, apparel and souvenirs commemorating this storied group.
What’s unique: A large collection of 10×26 museum-quality archival prints from western artists are offered in a variety of materials and frame options (from $95)
South of Amarillo on the West Texas A&M campus, Panhandle-Plains is Texas’ largest history museum. Southwestern art, the history of the oil industry, and insight into the life of Native Americans and early Texas pioneers are all covered by the museum and represented in its store offerings.
San Antonio Museum of Art San Antonio
What’s unique: The sterling silver Soulful Folk Bird Brooch ($410) is reminiscent of SA’s cultural blend and simple enough to fit in with a wide range of personal styles.
SAMA boasts the largest collection of ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Asian art in the southern United States., along with a significant amount of Latin American and regional pieces. From a $65, 11-inch “golden bulldog” to a Chairman Mao bank for $32, the museum shop’s offerings are a mix of straightforward and quirky.
Texas Prison Museum Huntsville
What’s unique: The handmade domino set ($100) is a real step up from the plastic variety
In addition to T-shirts, patches, caps, mugs, postcards, and magnets carrying the Texas Department of Criminal Justice insignia, this one-of-a-kind store stocks a huge array of metal, leather, and wood items handmade by Texas prison inmates. They do special orders as well.