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Shining Together Across Five Continents

November 25, 2019

By Susan Tudor

“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” This Mahatma Gandhi quote reminds me how Museum Store Sunday started — a small group of MSA volunteers committed to what they believed in.


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For the third year in a row, Museum Store Sunday will take place the way it began. However, there is a difference. That small body of determined spirits has grown. On Dec. 1, 2019, a much larger group has banded together to advocate for shopping in support of museums and other cultural institutions.

When MSA launched Museum Store Sunday in 2017, we knew it was an opportunity to showcase our stores with their unique, mission-related products and meaningful experiences, but we didn’t realize its reach. Here we are in year three with over 1,400 institutions united to celebrate nonprofit retail in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., 20 countries and five continents. Museum Store Sunday is educating consumers around the world about the importance of shopping in museum stores. With participating institutions across North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia, it’s thrilling to see our local, national and international cultural communities embrace this global day of museum store advocacy.

Museum Store Sunday has become the moment for our stores to shine in the eyes of the world. It is the one chance per year when all of us, on an international stage, get to say, “We’re here, and here’s why we matter!” Every participant, every employee, every vendor and every institution has a unique opportunity to be part of this. Don’t you think it’s truly amazing that on Dec. 1, over 1,400 museums throughout the world will be celebrating Museum Store Sunday? And by doing so, they will be connecting consumers to their institutions through shopping in their stores.

When I think of all the messages that Museum Store Sunday speaks to, what resonates most with me is purpose-driven shopping. I think it will always be our advantage in the marketplace. Purpose-driven shopping is about encouraging consumers and visitors to consciously contribute to the future sustainability and success of our cultural institutions. It’s about encouraging our visitors to be a patron and to support their local economy through shopping in their local museum stores. As Geoff Carroll, MSA Board Vendor Member Advisor, pointed out in his recent Museum Store magazine article, “We want and need the market for cultural commerce to grow. We want more families to wake up on Black Friday weekend and make a conscious decision to give their spending dollars to our community of museums.”

One of the major focus points of the MSA 2016–2019 Strategic Plan was to “develop a strategic program to communicate to the world the value and importance of nonprofit retail.” That our community has spread its reach literally around the globe with Museum Store Sunday dovetails perfectly with our intent and demonstrates the vitality, power and clarity of that intent. In three short and very focused years, we have made immediate and tangible progress toward one of our most significant goals of advocacy. Our MSA community should feel proud, indeed, of our “all shoulders to the wheel” attitude and our commitment to deliver on this goal!

It’s inspiring to see how this campaign has developed. To reference Gandhi’s quote again, “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history,” MSA’s signature advocacy event is changing the course of retail history, especially that shopping period during the Thanksgiving weekend. I cannot wait to see where the next three years — and beyond — will take us.

As we shine together on Dec. 1, let’s remember that Museum Store Sunday is a continual opportunity to advocate for our stores, our institutions and our communities!


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Susan Tudor is the manager of visitor services and store buyer for the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida, and the current President of the MSA Board of Directors. Susan has chaired multiple MSA committees including the MSA Advocacy Committee responsible for the inaugural launch of the global initiative Museum Store Sunday.  

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MSA PRO-File: Lynne Francis-Lunn

November 11, 2019

By David Duddy

Until very recently, our colleague Lynne Francis-Lunn was the leader and creative force behind the extraordinary store at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. After a career at the museum for 33 years, she has retired from her position to pursue new endeavors and paths. We caught up with her for this PRO-File before she became completely enmeshed in her new plans.


Where did you grow up? Tell us a few basics: born, raised, training, education?KJK

I was born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard, the lovely little island off the coast of Massachusetts. In high school, I became very interested in weaving, and I pursued my training at Southeastern Massachusetts University, hoping for a career in the fabric design industry.

What was your professional aim? Was it museums? In a retail capacity or another?

Well, a job in the fabric design world was not the easiest at the time — a lot of that work was leaving this country and moving offshore. I knew the director of the Essex Institute (later to join with the Peabody Museum to become the new Peabody Essex Museum), and I ran into her in a yarn shop. She needed someone to run their store for a few weeks while they searched for a new manager, and I took a three-week contract to do that. Three weeks became six, which became 12, and I thought “I could really do something here. Maybe this would be a great step for me.” I applied and was hired — and have been a part of the institution ever since.

What other types of jobs have you had?

I had a few other retail jobs and was very familiar with retail management, and I had also been teaching part time at Newbury College — some courses in textile technology.

No one imagines they will do something for 33 years when they start out. What kept you going?

I am not very good with the same sort of work over and over again. Every new exhibition created opportunities for learning — truly learning something new every day! When a new exhibition was proposed, I would dive into the details and begin the search for new merchandise or what new products could be developed to accompany it. Every exhibition brought a new challenge and a new chance to learn.

You witnessed a lot of growth at PEM. Were you a part of the expansion?

There were so many changes in my time at PEM — a 25-year expansion project after the two institutions had merged their collections and their strategic plans. I was involved in the design of the new store and had been asked by the director to select the proper consultant. After assessing two proposals, I did more research, and with the help of my MSA connections, I located a third choice, and we went with that.

How did your relationships with vendors, artists, curators and collectors affect the business? How was MSA part of your career in nonprofit retail?

Relationships have been absolutely key to the success of PEM’s business — through MSA and with all other business connections. Trust is essential to my work — to all of our work. You need to understand the abilities of the vendors to be a partner in a project. And they need to understand that a deadline is a deadline — that exhibition will open on the appointed day, and I must have the merchandise as promised. I can only work with partners who fully understand our needs. Trust will always provide the best possible result.

What was the biggest change you saw through those years? In the business? In the audience and clientele?

I think it must be the same for all of us: online business, Amazon — they represent the biggest change and challenge. But you have to move with those times and develop strategies for your own business.

What was your favorite moment in the course of your time at PEM?

There were many, but the thing of which I am the most proud is all of the terrific working relationships I developed with many colleagues and departments across the institution. We would collaborate on programming and events that wove the store into the exhibition in interesting and supportive ways. When we had our hat show at PEM, on loan from the Victoria and Albert in London, the store orchestrated a hat fashion show. The guest curator was Stephen Jones, one of the top milliners in the world (think hats at the races at Ascot). He allowed us to use hats from his personal collection, and it became a sold-out event. That required working with many others at the museum. During the course of the exhibition, we sold 3,500 hats. That was beyond anyone’s expectations at the time.

What was the craziest thing you experienced?

Not so much crazy as unexpected, but meeting and working with fashion icon Iris Apfel during the course of her exhibition at PEM. What started as meeting the donor became an incredible working relationship — and a friendship. She opens doors to many creative worlds but has the solid background of a business person. We would actually meet with Iris in New York and visit shows and showrooms. And, let me tell you, when you travel with Iris, you may meet a number of celebrities! It made me up my game wardrobe-wise, and she was an inspiration for that as well.

What was the biggest lesson from the years at PEM?

At the end of the day, people matter most. Over the course of my career, it is the people I met and worked with — colleagues, co-workers, vendors, customers, staff — people from every area of my life. I worked very hard at my job and truly sought success, but I really remember and cherish the people I knew (and know) the most.

What is next for you?

I am focusing on art making — now that I have actual time to do it! I have always worked on my art, but 10 p.m. is not really the best time for me to start a project, which had been when I could begin to create. Right now I am doing “30 art projects in 30 days” on Instagram. I have a piece in a Kentucky Museum as part of an exhibition organized by the National Basketry Association and another piece in the Cultural Center at Rocky Neck in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Just the beginning — stay tuned for more!


Lynne Francis-Lunn is the former director of merchandising at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. She retired in October 2019 after 33 years. Lynne held the titles of museum shop manager, director of licensing and product development and director of merchandising at PEM. She was a former president of the New England Chapter of the Museum Store Association and presented a several national MSA conferences on licensing and product development. She also presented on museum store practices at the Cooperstown Graduate Program Symposium and at the American Associations of Museums. You can find Lynne on Instagram @Lynnefl.

 

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Museum Store Sunday: Seeing the Forest and the Trees

October 28, 2019

By Angela Colasanti

An international collaborative advocacy event

Pennsylvania is my home … it always has been. I adore the changing seasons, the variations in landscape from mountain to field to city. For much of the year it is green, except for the punctuated starkness of white in the winter and the warm orange hue of fall. Close to my home is Valley Forge National Historical Park, where we go to walk on the trails, picnic in the fields and reflect on the historical context embedded into this preserved landscape. My favorite place in the entire park is near Washington Memorial Chapel, where a massive plane tree lives. It is a true gem of nature, worthy of reverence and respect.


As I stand under the tree, reflecting on Museum Store Sunday, I envision that the soil is our community, the cities and places embodying our shared culture. The trunk is the institution, the building and the mission preserving that culture. The branches are the arms of the institution, the store, cafe, many other departments and the collections providing support to the mission. The leaves, catchers of light, as the employees, volunteers, community outreach, events and educational programming, giving the tree its energy and life force. And finally, the sun, the rain, the birds, the insects — they are the patrons. They have the honor of giving nourishment to the tree and receiving the fruits of its bounty. And they, in turn, carry the seeds and share them, starting the whole cycle anew.

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For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege to serve on the Museum Store Sunday Committee, watching a sapling grow strong under our collective tender care. It has been a professional honor to work with both institutional and vendor MSA members dedicated to the advocacy of museums and museum stores. In a very short time, we have collaborated to build an international event, with participation from over 1,200 stores, in all 50 states and 18 countries. The event has received international press attention, and we are on track to increase our participation by another 25% in our third year. This year, alongside my co-chairpersons, Stuart Hata of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and Laura Murphy of The Preservation Society of Newport County, we have focused our efforts in three key areas: strategic partnerships and Advocacy, marketing and communications and engagement and recruitment. Our goal is to engage all parts of our tree and see continued growth throughout.

The Strategic Partnerships and Advocacy subcommittee, including Julie Steiner of the Barnes Foundation, Michael Guajardo of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Michael Higdon of the National Building Museum, David Graveen of Popcorn Custom Products, Kristen Daniels of Kamibashi and myself, has been specifically focusing on developing best practices for creating relationships within the cultural sector that advances Museum Store Sunday as a whole. We are actively engaging international, national and regional museum-affiliated associations and consumer arts organizations, as well as advocating directly to elected officials. Along with Susan Tudor, President of the MSA Board of Directors, of Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, letters and communications have been developed and sent to organizations and elected officials around the world, starting a broader dialogue on the benefits of Museum Store Sunday throughout the full breadth of the cultural sector.

Through our strategic partnership with the American Alliance of Museums, the diversity of institutions domestically participating in Museum Store Sunday has substantially increased. Laura L. Lott, President and CEO of the AAM, said, “Museum stores create wonderful opportunities for visitors to interact with, and take home, unique items inspired by their museums’ missions, while also supporting the local economy. The American Alliance of Museums is proud to be a supporter of Museum Store Sunday and hopes that this international day brings in new visitors who want to support museums’ vital work in an exciting way.”

Museum Store Sunday is an international collaborative advocacy event. The Strategic Partnerships and Advocacy Committee invites both institutional and vendor participants to contact their own local, state and federal elected officials on behalf of Museum Store Sunday. Tell them about this opportunity for their constituents to “Shop with Purpose” and “Be a Patron” of their local museum store. Using the advocacy letter templates available in the toolkit on the Museum Store Sunday website, you can easily insert your store’s information and send out your message to your own elected officials. We have created both printed and online submission versions, which you can customize to your specific needs. Be sure to invite your local representatives to attend your Museum Store Sunday events. Showcase celebrations or discounts you are offering, and take this opportunity to educate your legislators about the value museums and museum stores hold in our communities. For a listing of your legislators, click here for the American Alliance of Museum’s federal legislator search.

As I always do, I will once again visit that special tree at Valley Forge this winter. I will be reminded of the important work we do every day, and the strength and permanence embodied by the Museum Store Sunday event we have all cultivated. We, together, actively support institutions in the preservation of literature, history, nature, science, art and culture — for the benefit of all. Together we are a forest of trees, honored to share our work with patrons around the world. Museum Store Sunday is the celebration of all these relationships, and it creates unique opportunities for all of us to engage our communities directly through advocacy.


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Angela Colasanti is the founder of VIELÄ Jewelry, located in bucolic Chester County, Pennsylvania, just a short drive from Philadelphia. Surrounded by the beautiful woods and trails of Pennsylvania, and in close proximity to the New Jersey and Delaware beaches, there are abundant sources of inspiration for her jewelry designs. VIELÄ Jewelry partners with museum stores and cultural institutions nationwide, and Angela is proud to produce her line in the United States. She is a co-chairperson of the Museum Store Sunday Committee, a founding sponsor of Museum Store Sunday and has received a Service Award from MSA. Please reach out to Angela directly at acolasanti@vielajewelry.com, or contact the committee at info@museumstoresunday.org.

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Catch a Rising Star: ‘Museums and More’ 40 Under 40 Honorees

October 14, 2019

By Kate Botelho Sibya

Museums and More magazine recently released its list of the 40 people under 40 who are rising stars in our industry. We caught up with three of the honorees who have close connections to MSA: Lindsay Hagerman, co-founder and CFO of RainCaper; Jill DeDominicis, visitor experience manager at Mingei International Museum; and Sarah Schuetz, director of buyer services at International Market Centers. When we spoke with the honorees, we couldn’t help noticing one overarching theme to their responses: the value of networking.


Each of the winners stressed the benefits of reaching out, whether it’s within the MSA community or to other networks — and credits this interaction as important to their career growth. The sharing of ideas has been core to their success as museum institution members, vendor members and market representatives. It’s all about connection.

We asked each winner how they stand out in their organizations as young professionals and if they see their perspective as different.

Lindsay Hagerman

Lindsay Hagerman

Hagerman says, “I am constantly looking for new ways to improve RainCaper. I leverage many business networks, including the Museum Store Association and other focused entrepreneur groups, to help me make the right decisions for my business.”

DeDominicis’ perspective is informed by the unusual career path she took to her position. “Prior to this role, I worked as a magazine editor, mainly for the publication Ornament magazine, which focuses on artists, craft and wearable art. I also helped run a craft and furniture business for a short period of time, so I think I approach my work with an understanding of both the nonprofit, museum and retail side, but also with experience in the artist and crafter’s realm.”

Schuetz speaks of the power of serving others well. “Always follow through,” she says. “Ask yourself, how does the ‘other side’ benefit? Anticipate your manager’s needs. Proactively deliver before they even ask for it. Results speak for themselves.”

How did these young professionals achieve their positions, and what advice would they have given to their younger selves? Schuetz says to advocate on your own behalf. “You are more likely to receive that for which you respectfully ask,” she says. “Remember that hardly any decisions in life are forever. You have the privilege to make a different choice later, as your needs or desires change.”

Jill DeDominicis

Jill DeDominicis

DeDominicis agrees. “I would encourage my younger self to stick with what makes me feel inspired and excited and trust that it will all come together in the end,” she says. Also, to “spend way less time doubting myself; try to push myself even if it’s uncomfortable and scary.”

Hagerman believes that success is not achieved by working in a vacuum, “It is best achieved by networking, by hiring people who are smarter than you in their specialty area and by paying professionals for expert advice in their fields.”

When asked about their involvement with MSA, there was unanimous agreement in the power and value of our community. DeDominicis highlights ShopTalk as her go-to source for answers and inspiration. “It’s so encouraging to be able to talk with other colleagues in different museums and to hear about what they are working on, to have a sounding board to share ideas and to ask questions. It’s such a cool, supportive and helpful community,” she says.

Hagerman credits MSA with driving many product development decisions for her company. “In addition

Sarah Schuetz

Sarah Schuetz

to sales, we have also developed professional relationships through the last several years of MSA FORWARD — in particular, vendors helping vendors with our business,” she says.

Schuetz sees MSA as an “unbelievable resource … and proactively moving toward the future.” She adds, “Get involved, attend events, introduce yourself, actively participate. Network with talented retail experts to learn, grow, and prosper.”

Schuetz shared with us a list of questions she uses to “check in” with herself and make sure she’s keeping her priorities in focus:

  • What did you do this year of which you’re proud?
  • What are ways that you exercised self-care?
  • What are the most important things you learned?
  • What compliments did you receive that affected you?
  • What is the best advice you heard this year?

On behalf of MSA and MSA NEXT, we wish to congratulate the Museums & More Magazine 40 Under 40 Class of 2019!


msa-next-logoArticle provided by Kate Botelho Sibya of Newport Mansions on behalf of MSA NEXT.

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Museum Store Sunday … Is It on Your Radar?

September 30, 2019

By Laura Murphy

Museum Store Sunday, MSA’s global one-day initiative, will be celebrated on Dec. 1, 2019. Cap off your Thanksgiving weekend with this shopping event highlighting your store’s unique, curated merchandise and representing the best in creativity and culture. Everyone is invited to shop the incredible offers at museum stores on six continents and in all 50 states, including Washington, D.C. Museum Store Sunday is for all nonprofit retailers from art museums, historic houses, presidential libraries, botanical gardens, zoos and more. It is a time for all nonprofit retailers to highlight their fantastic store merchandise.


The time is now to join the 1,200 museum stores who are planning for a successful day. We want you to take part in the third year of Museum Store Sunday success. Join the excitement and be part of this growing momentum. Our goal this year is to increase participation by 25%, and we are almost there! Let’s surpass that goal and increase our reach to 35%. Be a part of the excitement!

Do not stress. Yes, we can reach the goal together. The goal is to make your store a destination. It is to be part of your community. The benefit of registering for Museum Store Sunday is to gain international recognition for your institution and your contribution to it.

Let’s get engaged and put Museum Store Sunday on your holiday radar. You can do it in a few easy steps.

Visit the Museum Store Sunday website and click on the museum portal. Follow registration, and get your store name on the locator. After registering, you may then add the event you are hosting that day. Planning your event can range from working with one of your vendors to host a trunk show, developing a special product or asking them to show up with treats and talk up their products. Great signage, mugs, tote bags and pin-on buttons are available for purchase to promote the day. It is easy to participate, and 73% of participants saw an increase in sales that day just by being a part of the event.

Get your marketing department involved. Publish it on the museum’s website, Facebook and Instagram. Ask for assistance in writing copy to get the message out to the local media from print to radio. Be sure to get listed on local event calendars. Involve membership — emphasize it as a great shopping opportunity for the holidays and for members to support their favorite institution.

Check out the toolkit. Here you will find the branding guidelines for advertising, and purchase branded merchandise like signs, mugs and tote bags for in-store promotions.

Community outreach is another way to boost visitation. Involve other nonprofit stores in the area to become part of a program to increase store visits. How about passport programs listing all participating stores in your area and including their events and discounts being offered on that day? The message can be “support your local museum stores on Dec. 1, 2019.” Strength in numbers!

Support your local vendor. Reach out to them to assist you in making the day a success. Invite them to launch new products — products you have never offered. Make them a partner in your success.

Get your staff involved. Make them part of the excitement. Prepare by putting out the signs, having them wear the buttons and talking up the event to the visitors. Let people know this is a day not to be missed.

Now do you feel like you can make this day a success in a few easy steps by creating a store atmosphere to delight your patrons? If you have questions, please contact the Engagement and Recruitment Committee. We will be happy to walk you through any concerns, help you plan your day and give you even more reasons to join our international celebration.


Laura Murphy is the chair of the Engagement and Recruitment Committee for Museum Store Sunday. She can be reached at lmurphy@newportmansions.org.

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Big Ideas from AAM’s Annual Meeting (and How They Fit into Museum Retail Stores), Part 2: Embracing Change

September 16, 2019

By Julie Steiner

Part 2: Embracing Change

You’ve probably heard some of the statements attempting to summarize the scope of propulsive changes in our culture today:

  • More data has been recorded in the last two years than in all of prior history.
  • More immigrants have come to the United States since 1966 than in the entire time from 1776-1966.
  • Never before has the workplace accommodated four generations working side by side.
  • More than half the world’s population now live in urban areas.
  • Although over 90% of communication is nonverbal (tone, expression and body language), email, texting and social media have all caused verbal communication to decrease dramatically.

Simultaneous demographic, social, technological and economic changes are uprooting norms across all industry sectors. The program at AAM’s 2019 Annual Meeting made it apparent that today’s museum professionals wrestle with the ever-increasing speed of change in American culture. Advances in technology and rapid data accumulation change not only what we do, but how it is measured. Problems and solutions are increasingly global rather than local; generations are changing; centers of power shifting; individual stories are amplified and empowered just as “privacy” simultaneously becomes commodified; and on and on.

These are sweeping changes with far-reaching implications, not only in museums but everywhere in our lives. Never in history have humans had to reconcile so much evolutionary and social change so quickly. In addition, an individual organization’s reactions and efforts at adapting to cultural changes often happen on an international scale, at an ever-accelerating pace, and quite often (thanks to social media) directly in the public eye.

As an example of this, by now you are likely already familiar with the conversation about salary transparency that sprang from the AAM keynote address with Kimberly Drew, where Drew (an African-American woman) disclosed her salaries from previous jobs and compared one museum salary to that of her white male predecessor. This disclosure garnered many murmurs from the crowd, followed by even more tweets, Facebook posts and discussion on social media, which, within weeks, prompted another museum employee to launch a shared spreadsheet for museum workers to make similar disclosures anonymously.

This spreadsheet grew rapidly from a few entries to thousands. In this sequence of events beginning with a single AAM session, we see the kind of seismic shift happening in real time that illustrates so many of these converging simultaneous changes:

  • Workers demanding new levels of accountability from the organizations they serve
  • The speed of transmission of ideas our technology provides
  • Increasing demands for transparency in nonprofits
  • Changing values as younger generations become more influential
  • Lessening distinctions between personal, political and professional

How Does All this Apply to Retail?

No one is immune to cultural change. As nonprofit retailers, we can prepare ourselves by admitting that “business as usual” is not going to cut it in these times. Together, we can assess how some parts of this shifting landscape have extra implications in retail, as the changes affect not only our institutions, but essential retail business practices. Museums are under pressure to collect more visitor data, with higher needs for specialized skills of analysis and reporting. Processes that can be automated will increasingly be so, such as staffing levels determined by visitation algorithms, and the now-ubiquitous self-checkouts at so many discount stores and drug stores.

Complicating this further are expectations of our changing consumer marketplace. These pattern changes scale from large (like demanding sustainable manufacturing) down to individual transactions, like customers expecting smartphone-enabled payment options, or bringing their own shopping bags to reduce waste. Even our own buying patterns are shifting, as the wholesale trade shows fluctuate, merge and re-emerge.

As we face this barrage of changes across the landscape, let’s admit that change is inherently unsettling, even on a small scale. Humans intuitively resist change out of deep-seated fear of uncertainty that is part of our psychological evolution. However, change is also a necessary part of growth. Growing our businesses to accommodate these changes, addressing them head on to provide support for our employees and others who rely on us, and assisting our organizations’ larger transitions all show our own adaptive leadership.

Additionally, we can know that we are not alone. These are broad cultural shifts shared across institution types, sizes and locations. Tension and resistance are normal. The changes required in our institutions sometimes challenge long-held, comfortable practices. Fortunately for MSA members, in addition to AAM, our association community provides a localized and subject-specific platform for us to pose questions, embrace challenging discussions, and to scale these grand ideas down to the specific intersection of museum culture and consumer needs. Our localized conversations at MSA chapter meetings, in committees, at MSA FORWARD, in Shoptalk discussions and through direct networking should increasingly support our individual, professional and organizational development as we weather these changes together. I look forward to the shape these conversations will take on in our Museum Store Association.


headshotJulie Steiner (pronouns she/her/hers) is the director of retail operations for the Barnes Foundation and past president of MSA (2017-2018).

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How Museum Stores Support Their Institutions and the Community At-Large

August 19, 2019

Compiled by Stuart Hata

Throughout my 30 years as a museum retail professional, I have often had to explain to others how museum stores support their institutions and the public at-large. These conversations have occurred within professional circles, through my personal network of friends and family and with casual acquaintances and complete strangers. Many people were unaware of the facts and, once divulged, all expressed great appreciation for the roles and responsibilities museum stores and their staff deliver. I have also heard and received valuable explanations from fellow Museum Store Association colleagues, both institutions and vendor members alike.


As Museum Store Sunday, MSA’s signature advocacy initiative, takes root and expands in the consciousness of consumers and the general public with each passing year, I would like to offer the following compilation of views why our work in the museum retail industry is so important and vital to the cultural landscape. Please feel free to share these collective thoughts with your colleagues, institutions, customers and communities as we work to make every day a Museum Store Sunday day.

  1. Museums are a trusted resource for communities, and the products sold in museum stores reflect the mission, collections and programs of the museums and cultural institutions to which they belong.
  1. Museum stores perform integral and multifaceted work for their institutions, from earning income and extending mission-related programs, to visitor engagement and educational outreach through store products, programs and experiences.
  1. Dedicated directly to and an integral department of their institutions, museum stores operate as nonprofit retailers under section 501(c)3 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code and are a key earned revenue department of the museum.
  1. Museum stores further the educational mission of their institutions through the offering of products, which allows the public to “take home” a part of the museum for their enjoyment and ongoing memory of their museum experience.
  1. Museums traditionally attract broad market bases, and those attending will range from school children to professionals, from college students to retirees and from families to single adults. Therefore, museum stores effectively service these diverse visitors by offering a wide variety of items and price points that help capture the interest of each of these various patrons.
  1. A museum store creates long-term patrons of the museum by specifically engaging children, teens and young adults in programming and events and with store products that are educational. This important demographic that can be reached through the museum store helps to create future audiences that can support and sustain the museum.
  1. Products found in museum stores are curated just like the works displayed in their respective institutions, with many items often developed exclusively by the museum, resulting in distinctive and unique offerings for consumers.
  1. A museum store and their products are one of the strongest marketing tools that a museum possesses. When a patron wears a piece of jewelry, looks at a print, reads a book or plays with a game purchased from the museum store, they are subtly communicating key marketing messaging and reinforcement of the institution.
  1. Museum stores are vital front-line ambassadors for their institutions, ensuring visitors receive welcoming and enhanced experiences and knowledgeable and meaningful engagement from their museum visit.
  1. Revenues generated by museum stores are deposited into the operating budgets of the parent organizations, providing economic sustainability for the museum and cultural engagement for the community.
  1. Museum stores extend the brand of their parent institutions, helping museums communicate, reinforce and amplify their unique offerings and experiences to the general public.
  1. Museums foster ongoing appreciation and knowledge of art, nature, culture, science and history. When consumers purchase a gift from the museum store, they help to sustain the museum’s service to the public.
  1. Museum stores help their institutions create a sense of pride and ownership from their members, visitors, local governments, communities and the general public.


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A veteran museum store retailer for over 30 years, Stuart Hata is the director of retail operations for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the de Young and Legion of Honor. He is responsible for driving a multimillion dollar retail business at two museum locations and oversees merchandising, store operations, warehousing, product development, retail marketing, licensing, wholesale and the online FAMSF store. Stuart also currently serves as a co-chair of the 2019 Museum Store Sunday Committee and is a past president of the MSA Board of Directors and MSA Western Chapter.

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Motivating Staff Members: Cash Is Not King

August 5, 2019

By Susan Saylor

Recently, MSA President Susan Tudor asked for suggestions from other MSA members on ShopTalk for ideas that would help motivate employees to convert visitors to members. I replied to Susan in a private message, and she appreciated the suggestions so much, she encouraged me to share the information in a blog post.


In a past life, I designed incentive programs for the corporate world. Some of the main “rewards” I provided were weekend family getaways (no timeshares involved). I worked with businesses to move big ticket items, like opening a $25,000 home equity line of credit for banks and credit unions or construction-related wholesalers like electrical, plumbing or HVAC dealers to incentivize customers (i.e., contractors) to spend a certain amount during a specific period of time (usually 90 days). These are just two examples of the businesses I worked with. I always advocated for including employees in the program and gave suggestions on how to incorporate incentives for them.

Businesses traditionally give cash incentives, especially in the sales world. However, usually the cash gets used to pay for everyday expenses like groceries or a dentist bill. Therefore, it just goes away with no memories attached to the reward.  A weekend getaway produces memories of a happy time together — usually with pictures and souvenirs from the destination, not to mention Facebook and Instagram posts. They also remember how they earned the reward!

With so much to see and do in your area, you could use things like dinner for two at a fine restaurant, tickets to a concert, theater, or sporting event of their choice or any number of wonderful experiences in the area. You could award individuals or put employees together in teams, which is an effective way for the team members to motivate each other. You know your own staff and what they would see as a delightful and motivating event.

To help your employees recruit, give them free passes to the museum, but create a special pass named “Get to Know the Museum” or some other title that sets it apart. It would give the visitor a choice of dropping in during normal hours or an option to book a special guided tour in advance with a docent so they can become acquainted with other services or events at the museum. Perhaps give those who tour a goody bag or maybe even a discount card good for purchases made on the next for Museum Store Sunday.

I wrote a white paper at the time, and I will highlight some of the statistics. If anyone wants a full copy which references the studies behind the statistics, I’m happy to share it:

  • Tangible incentives dramatically increase work performance by an average of 22%.
  • Incentive programs aimed at individuals increased performance a substantial 27%.
  • Moreover, programs aimed at teams increase performance a stunning 45%.
  • Incentive programs have an equal, positive impact on both quality and quantity goals.
  • Incentive programs structured with employee input work best; however, only 23% of incentive systems are selected with employee input.
  • Long-term incentives are more powerful than short-term incentives (44%gain for programs beyond a year versus a 20% gain for programs less than one month).

So, reward them with experiences — anything but cash. The concept parallels why we have museum gift stores. As Julie Steiner so aptly put it in her blog post “What Is a Museum Store?” on September 25, 2017, “The magic [is what] happens when a guest finds the perfect thing to carry out, just the right object for them that will connect their long-term memory back to this experience.”


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Susan Saylor is CEO of Scarves for the Arts, a division of National Promotions. Her career began in advertising and marketing and evolved to executive sales and marketing. Her lifelong interest in the arts and concern for on-going funding challenges for many arts and nonprofit organizations led her to create Scarves for the Arts in 2016. She became an MSA vendor member in 2017.


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PRO-File: Katherine Kornblau

July 22, 2019

By David Duddy

Katherine J. Kornblau is the founder and president of KJK Jewelry, Inc., which specializes in working with museums and other cultural institutions to create custom jewelry that complements collections and exhibitions. Katherine studied art history at Oberlin College. A lifelong New Yorker, Katherine reflects on her career, the impact of MSA and she even shares her favorite pizza topping.


Where did you grow up? KJK

I was born in Brooklyn, moved to Long Island and then I moved to Manhattan when I was 12 — and I am still here!

What does your company do? How long has your company been in existence?

I started selling to stores 35 years ago. We specialize in working with museums and other cultural institutions to create custom jewelry that complements their collections and exhibitions. We also offer a full range of our own thematic collections designed specifically for MSA customers.

What is your role within your company? Have you changed positions within the company? Worked for another company?

“Chief cook and bottle-washer?” Since we are a small business, I oversee every aspect of our operations. My role is to design beautiful collections, have my studio execute them to perfection and ensure that they are delivered on time. I love the client contact and working directly with buyers to make sure that what we produce is exactly what they need. I work closely with my staff — some of whom have been with me for decades. While I was growing my company, I worked for several schools teaching art and jewelry making. It was wonderful to guide people creating their own works!

Describe the life journey that brought you to this career.

I started selling jewelry out of my little red wagon on Fire Island. I have been selling jewelry to stores since I was 16. I took art classes at The Metropolitan Museum of Art growing up. A real watershed moment was the famous King Tut exhibit — it was an inspirational, life-changing exhibit for me. I fell in love with ancient Egypt: the history, the art and, of course, the jewelry. I even studied hieroglyphics!

In high school, I was an intern at The Met in the Jewelry Reproductions Studio. I also worked in The Met Store. I lived in Peru as an exchange student, which gave me a unique opportunity to experience another culture. After that, I went to Oberlin College, where I studied art history. Then, I had another international experience studying Egyptian archaeology during my junior year abroad at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris. These international experiences were enriching and left me with a desire to study, travel and discover other cultures and their arts. These experiences, combined with living in the inspiring fashion capital of New York City, brought me to where I am today.

Tell us about the first sale you ever made to a museum or nonprofit institution. What was it? Who did you sell it to?

Years ago, I met with the buyer from The Guggenheim about an upcoming show they were hosting, “5,000 Years of China.” Since I had just finished my degree in art history, I started making a bunch of suggestions like,  “If it is Shang Dynasty, we should show bronzes. If it is Tang, let’s bring in some porcelain.” After listening to my thoughts on what she should consider including, she said: “You just do it.”

Did you feel like a partner in that process? Are you still?

Yes! My business is all about the partnership. I listen to my customers’ needs and advise them based on my experience so that we are all successful.

What is unique about your product, production technique, design or other aspects? What would the MSA membership really want to know about you?

Because I have worked with so many institutions, I truly understand the challenges that museum buyers face. We produce high-quality pieces that fit into the price range that works for institutional buyers. We have thousands of designs that we can produce in a wide variety of topics.

Every piece is made to order and our clients know they can rely on us.

I believe that many of my clients value that my work is made in America and that we are woman owned and operated.

Since we have so many collections, we have many clients that will use us one month for a Deco exhibit, the next month for a recycled-materials exhibit and then use us again for an Impressionist show. If we do not have what an institution needs in our collections, we will make it. For them, we represent reliable one-stop shopping!

Currently, there is a lot of turmoil in the retail world. Can you tell us one exciting trend that you’ve noticed? Are you taking advantage of it?

There is always perceived turmoil in the retail world. I think that if you offer unique products at a fair price with excellent customer service, customers keep coming back to you and they recommend you to others. An exciting trend I have noticed is that my highest-priced pieces are bringing in a healthy percentage of my annual sales. I am always cautious about designing pieces with a high wholesale because my MSA customers are hesitant to bring in higher-end goods, but I am delighted to report that they are selling them. They may not move as many pieces per style, but the high end makes the cases look great and their profit per piece is so much higher. Museums have such credibility with their public that they are able to sell luxury goods as well as moderately-priced items. This makes me want to go design more higher-end pieces right now!

What are some concrete goals for your next three years working with members of the Museum Store Association? How do you see MSA helping you achieve that?

First, I need to say thank you to MSA. I am deeply honored to receive the MSA Vendor of the Year Award. It is wonderful to be recognized for my many years of hard work and devotion to cultural institutions. For me, winning this award was like winning an Academy Award. It is the highest achievement I can think of in my industry. I have attended the MSA EXPO for 23 years, missing only one the week I had my daughter. My mom, Helen, who regularly attends with me, had to go to that one without me. MSA is the organization that helped me establish myself in this industry. I am grateful. I hope to grow with the organization and find many ways to help us continue to unite buyers and vendors and to bolster our recognition as an important, unique facet of retail with a valuable mission — to support our great institutions.

Have you ever attended an MSA chapter meeting? Tell us about that experience. 

I attended one in New York City many years ago. I would love to attend more, but I need lots of advanced notice with my busy travel schedule. We do support chapter meetings in other ways, like sponsorship, even if we cannot attend.

So, you are marooned on a desert island. What three music albums do you take?

Yikes — that is just too hard! One would have to be a selection of classical music. It is what I listen to while I work. One would be something like “Motown’s Greatest Hits” because it makes me happy and I love to dance! And finally, Carole King’s “Tapestry” because it reminds me of my youth and I sing it to my daughter at bedtime.

Go-to pizza topping?

I am a veggie girl — so probably spinach and mushroom, but plain cheese is just fine. As long as it is a great, crunchy crust New York City pizza!

Last one. “Star Wars” or “Star Trek”?

No question, “Star Wars”! It’s about recognizing the power of good energy in the universe.

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Museum Product Photography With an iPhone: The MSA Photo Challenge

July 8, 2019

By David Graveen and Erin Brown

We all know that smartphone photography is key to selling products in this digital age. At MSA FORWARD in San Diego, I led a “hands-on” education session on product photography with an iPhone. I shared photo tips including how to build your own in-store photo studio for under $50 to ensure that your product photos come out perfectly. The second part of the session was led by social media expert Erin Brown, and she concentrated on using Instagram to build a following to help store sales. Our idea was that everyone in the session should leave “photo and Instagram ready.” Erin and I challenged session attendees with five goals to implement on their return to their respective museum stores. This challenge is now being extended to the entire MSA Community!

Photo taken with an iPhone X

Photo taken with an iPhone X


The MSA Photo Challenge

Goal 1: Build a photo studio or buy an LED studio photo box (theflashery.com/lightbox). Define and plan the photo studio’s role in your store’s busy, everyday social media workflow.

Goal 2: Learn all camera settings/capabilities on your phone and use them for best results.

Phone Model iPhone X*

*Not all camera phones can deliver professional results. I recommend Apple’s iPhone 8 Version or higher.

Recommended Camera settings:

Color: Original

Display & Brightness – Set at mid-point

Storage – 64 GB Minimum, 256 GB Recommended ($1,150)

iCloud 2 TB ($10/month)

Flash: Off

HDR:   Off

Live:    Off

Grid:    On

Zoom: Off

In the Photos App, create “Product Photography” Album

Goal 3: Learn all image editing tools on Instagram and use them for best results: filters, perspective, brightness, contrast, warmth, saturation, highlights, shadows, tilt shift, sharpen and vignette.

Note for advanced users: Instagram is a great app, but when it comes to making your photos stand out, dedicated photo editing apps usually surpass Instagram’s capabilities. Snapseed, A Color Story, VSCO, Adobe Photoshop Express and Pixlr are great picture editing apps. Beyond image editing, these apps offer time-saving actions like saving “image recipes” if you have a set of adjustments you like to apply to all your pictures. While most of the tools are available for free, some apps may lock these features behind a pay wall.

Goal 4: Make a professional product photo in 10 minutes or less.

Goal 5: Create an effective Instagram post in 10 minutes or less.

The DIY Basic Studio                                                                                                                                        LED Studio Photo Box

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My office is roughly 12’x15’ and packed with a desk, two large dog crates, bookshelves, filing cabinets and a conference table — and still I have space for both of these photo studio options. Look for a permanent studio location so that your setup time is minimized.

Here’s what you’ll need to build your own basic studio:

(2) Pieces of 24”x36” White Foam Core (Michael’s Art Supplies)

(2) Pieces of 18”x24” White Foam Core (Michael’s Art Supplies)

(2) Goose Neck Table Lamps (Staples)

(2) 65 Watt Daylight LED Light Bulbs (Staples)

(1) 2” White Gaffers Tape (Art supply Store)

(1) Dust Off Air in a Can (Staples)

DIY Budget: $50.00

LED Budget: $69.95

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Escama Bag                                                                                                                                              Corey Wood’s Sunglasses

These photos were made in less than 10 minutes using my iPhone X (image adjusted in Instagram) and shot using the DIY basic studio. I prefer the basic studio over the LED studio lightbox because it is larger and more forgiving, but the “seamless” background effect is easier to achieve with the lightbox. Both are super simple to use and can deliver great results!

I also used and recommend the following studio accessories:

  1. Floor Standing Tripod * Manfrotto’s “Compact Smart Model” $59 B&H Photo
  2. Shutter Release Blue Tooth * Camkix Wireless Blue Tooth $29 B&H Photo
  3. Acrylic Cubes in Various Sizes * Clear Solutions

Tip: A tripod will discipline your eye and improve your compositions, and, when combined with a Bluetooth shutter release, it will ensure that there is no camera shake and your image will be remarkably sharper.

Why white?

These two studio images were made with a white backdrop to highlight the product. Social media influencers in the nonprofit retail industry have established and embraced a white style for their social media — check out MoMA and the Art Institute of Chicago’s white style on Instagram. A white background is best practice. White encourages consistency. White is the Amazon standard, and white will save money in product photography time and resources. You may wish to develop a style and a vison to personalize your feed that does not include a white background, but an exercise with white is invaluable when learning the fundamentals of lighting.

You have your photos … now what?

  • Label your photo files and file folders clearly and consistently.
  • Save them in one accessible location (Dropbox or Google Drive if you can).
  • Plan your social media one month at a time in an editorial calendar.
  • Write and double check your captions.
  • Tag vendors, your museum and other relevant accounts in the post.
  • Engage with your audience.
  • Be strategic. Create recurring content threads for your account.

What are content threads?

By thinking strategically and planning ahead about what makes your institution and store unique, it will be easier to generate new content. Examples: #MakerMonday, Item of the Week!, Meet the Staff. Add threads to your editorial calendar, leaving space for impromptu posts. Think about promoting products, educating followers on designers and artists, engaging with your community and staying entertaining.

Image Specs for Social Media

Each social media platform has different image sizes for their posts, profile pictures, etc. Ensuring that your images are sized appropriately will increase their quality in your followers’ feeds.

Instagram posts can be 1080 x 1080 pixels.

Facebook posts should have an image attached, 440 x 220 pixel (minimum, 2:1 ratio), or the photo won’t fill the feed appropriately.

Don’t forget to standardize your profile pics across platforms checking to be sure they’re the proper size.

Dos and Don’ts of Social Media

Do…

Find or create graphic, clear images.

Keep things vertical. Long images take up more space

Be thoughtful, but don’t belabor it.

Tag your vendors.

Post regularly (at least three times per week).

Keep your captions concise, but don’t forget to infuse personality.

Ask questions, reply to commenters and make it feel human.

Don’t…

Post blurry, low-resolution images ever.

Use someone else’s image without permission or recognition.

Over post (more than three times a day).

Post millions of unrelated hashtags.

Spend hours agonizing over a single post.

Forget to create a geotag location and tag your posts.

Grow your Following

Use the right hashtags.

Use the right filters.

Post at the right time.

Pay for sponsored posts and product reviews.

Use geotags to boost local discovery.

Organize your Stories into Highlights on your profile.

Ask new users who engage with you to follow you.

Be consistent.

Hop on trends.

Run a giveaway.

Monitor your following closely over time.

Use the Instagram tools at your disposal.

Win $500!

Now take what you’ve learned and enter the Museum Store Product Photography Contest!

Instagram Post: Museum Store Sunday

Deadline: Oct. 1, 2019

Photograph and create a Museum Store Sunday Instagram post. Posts need to be completed and shared with Erin Brown, “the judge.” Erin will choose the most effective Museum Store Sunday Instagram post. The Best Museum Store Sunday post will receive a $500 credit toward any custom product from Popcorn. Hint: Make sure you use the hashtag #museumstoresunday

Engage your staff and have fun!


headshotDavid Graveen is the managing partner of Popcorn, a specialty design and manufacturing company dedicated to the nonprofit and specialty retail marketplaces. In the past year, Popcorn partnered with fellow MSA vendor Original Source to form the “Single Source” Brand, delivering an unprecedented range of services, products and best pricing to the museum store community. Over the past 17 years, David “Popcorn” has served on the MSA Board of Directors as a Vendor Advisor, he has championed LARGE group photos at chapter meetings and led several education sessions at the annual conference. David has served on the Museum Store Sunday Committee from its inception and is proud to be a founding sponsor.

 

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Erin Brown is a social media consultant and part of the Hello PR Team responsible for Museum Store Sunday press and social. She studied Art History in college and began her career in the marketing department of a museum in Los Angeles. From there, she lived in San Francisco and New York, working as the director of marketing and communications for Design Within Reach, where she brought the stories of emerging and established designers and their products to life through print and online media. In 2014, Erin returned to the LA area to live and work, starting a social media consultancy for retail brands, designers and more.