Spring 2017
Olde New York By Sam Ujvary

Big Apple’s oldest museum finds ways to be on the cutting edge

Coordinating products with current exhibits

“Our NYHistory Store addresses current exhibitions in a variety of ways. In the months preceding an exhibition, we source products that address the subject, taking as a starting point a full review of the exhibition materials, layout, and curators’ notes. We look for products in our best-selling merchandise departments, for example books, jewelry, accessories, gifts, souvenirs and children’s goods. With some vendors, we develop custom products that will afford our visitor the opportunity to buy a unique product that can further personalize their experience of the exhibition. We also profile our product array using prior exhibitions that resemble the upcoming one.

“When we create the merchandise presentation in store, we give primary display space — location and square/linear footage allotment — to exhibition merchandise in proportion to the prominence and time-frame of each exhibition. We display merchandise themes in groupings for a stronger visual impact. For example, all the products created that were inspired by the Museum’s Tiffany Blue Dragonfly lamp are artfully displayed together to highlight the color and themes in the assortment. We highlight these exhibit themes in merchandise display vitrines situated adjacent to high foot-traffic locations in the Museum. We also use our web store and electronic media to emphasize exhibit products.”

Ione Saroyan, director of merchandise operations, NYHistory Store at the New-York Historical Society

Founded in 1804, New-York Historical Society is the oldest museum in New York City. With a self-proclaimed mission to “explore the richly layered political, cultural and social history of New York City and State and the nation, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history,” it’s a renowned institution that features a wide variety of exhibitions, accommodating every type of patron who visits. These include exhibitions that shaped the local area to the story of Alexander Hamilton, a man who continues to be all the rage lately.

Much like the building itself, the Historical Society’s exhibits continue to evolve along with history. The museum’s architects, York and Sawyer, were known for building banks. Until renovations in 2011, the framework resembled the hermetic design of vault-like buildings. It’s no surprise the building would have a shop that evolves right along with it. “From a time decades ago being housed in a closet-sized alcove until today, the NYHistory Store has grown, roamed among several locations within the building, received three major remodels and has periodically added satellite shops among the galleries,” said Ione Saroyan, director of merchandise operations, NYHistory Store at the New-York Historical Society.

Museum stores often reflect their times as assertively as they do their disciplines. According to Saroyan, the dynamic ways the NYHistory Store can propel the New-York Historical Society’s energy and heritage in the marketplace is evident in the new immersive experience provided by the remodeled and re-imagined. Its new design, ambience, product assortment and customer service are all key factors that contribute to this unique experience. The new Parliament Café and NYHistory Store retail spaces allow shoppers to flow easily into the shop from the museum galleries or from the café. The store fixtures are elegant, sophisticated, and versatile, allowing merchandisers to accommodate concurrent special exhibition and general theme displays, and as such, be ready to feature any and all product categories related to a particular topic.

So how did the store that fosters a curiosity of antiquities get its start? “The reason we even have retail is because of one of our paintings, The Bear Dance; people wanted it,” Anthony L. Mulvey-Reyes, a sales rep for the museum store shared with me on a recent visit. “That’s how the current store got started.”

The goal of the NYHistory Store is to be a destination shop for history-lovers. Its objective is to offer members, visitors and New Yorkers — both lifelong and transplant — a store where they can find carefully curated — often exclusive — products with compelling American history stories. “When anyone thinks about giving a gift to someone who loves history, they should think of the NYHistory Store,” said Saroyan.

Rich, vivid stories of American history are brought to life through the exhibitions and subsequent merchandise offered at the NYHistory Store. Hard-to-find history and exhibition-related gifting items are selected for aesthetics, utility in service to history, exhibition, and collection-based themes.

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