Pillaging the Smithsonian

Sometimes gift shops are even more of an education than the museums.

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum complex, spanning art, space, culture, and even postage history in 19 show-stopping museums. Of those, a full 14 of them claim gift shops. Who hates a museum gift store? The truth is that sometimes they’re even better than the museum.

The 1.32 million-square-foot Natural History Museum spreads the wares among not one but five stores, including one dedicated to stuffed animals. Another is all about gemstones.

gems-Citrine Pear Shape and Cushion Necklace Photo: RP Studio, courtesy Smithsonian

The citrine necklace shown isn’t an affordable replica to be picked up in that shop. No, no. The 18-karat yellow gold necklace, with 64 graduated bezel set cushion cut citrine gems and a 177.11-carat pear-shaped citrine drop, is on display, gifted to Smithsonian’s National Gem Collection from Angelina Jolie Pitt. The design is Robert Procop.


For gem gifts on the affordable side, hit up the National Portrait Gallery shop. Jewelry is inspired by the museum’s own collection. The glass pearls shown is a replica of the necklace worn by Tallulah Bankhead. A 1930 portrait of the stage star hangs in the gallery. Jackie Kennedy’s signature Tiffany’s necklace is also on sale (the affordable version) as are her sunglasses, complete with her signature Greek key.


The shop at Freer | Sackler Galleries deals in collectables from the Far East like blue-and-white China modeled after the 1870s collections, fabric stuffed animals from Rajasthan, and silk scarfs like the Birds of Brilliance (shown), a hand-screen-printed version of artist James Whistler’s original mural on the south wall of the Peacock Room. Another delicate find are golden lattice coasters.



All photos courtesy of Smithsonian