At Rocket Badge, we’re fortunate to work with a wide range of interesting and inspiring clients, from sports clubs to universities to major corporates. One of our favourite things about the work that we do is being able to support important cultural, historical and scientific institutions like museums, and help them think creatively about how they could incorporate custom museum merchandise to promote their exhibitions or raise funds.
In this post, we present six clever ways that museums are using merchandise to meet their goals. We hope this inspires you and your staff to consider adding merchandise to your mix this year and beyond. Now off to the exhibits we go!
Recreate the Past, In a Badge
The general purpose of a museum is to collect and share notable cultural or historical objects with the public — for education and entertainment. Believe it or not, you can use museum merchandise to support this same purpose and help honour key historic movements. How? Recreate the past, in a pin or badge! Historic or culturally relevant badges may encourage your patrons to form a clearer connection to your exhibits.
For example, the Museum of London recreated these beautiful badges that were worn during the Suffragette movement. Each image is a duplicate of original pieces adorned by supporters during the historical fight for “Votes for Women”. The badges are packaged on a display card and sold in a set of four for £4 on the Museum of London website.
Badges as Art
Do you work at an art museum or gallery? Badges are a natural extension of the creative artwork you have on display at your institution.
One example that we love comes from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which houses a collection of over 2.3 million objects from 5,000 years of human creativity. V&A recently partnered with artist and designer Iris De La Torre, who specialises in plastic materials and bold designs. De La Torre draws inspiration from Frida Kahlo, whom she depicts in many of her works, including these brilliant badges (below).
The badges are digitally printed in Perspex, then cut and hand assembled. What we love about them is the intricate attention to detail – even the reverse of the badge is finished with a stainless-steel rhodium plated brooch back and a tag that evokes the work of De La Torre. V&A sells this particular badge for £30.00, along with many other merchandise items. Let your artwork inspire a whole new line of merchandise, be it badges, brooches, clothing, bags or jewellery.
Make a Statement
You know this well: Art is about making a statement. So, why not let your patrons and visitors make a statement of their own? Bold, rousing merchandise can go a long way to stimulate and engage people and help them feel like more of a part of your exhibit.
For example, we’re uplifted by these iconic “We Can Do It!” Rosie the Riveter Pins from the British Museum (below). Rosie the Riveter was an icon of World War II; the set of enamel pins (which the museum shop sells for £18.99) are part of a special exhibition.
This brings up another benefit of museum merchandise. While you likely have a permanent collection, you probably also change your exhibits and plan special themes throughout the year to keep the experience fresh and interesting. Every one of these special exhibits presents a tremendous opportunity for new and creative merchandise.
Museum visitors love souvenirs! Give all of your patrons something to remember their trip by with custom designed badges that they can wear again and again. Not only do these make lasting memories for visitors, but they’re also the perfect gifts for people of all ages. Especially as we near the holiday season, consider creating special items that you can promote in your gift shop and online.
For example, the London Transport Museum sells this bright, adorable set of badges which features iconic sights including the Red London Bus. This would make a perfect small gift for children, and, at £2.50 each, visitors might even purchase multiple sets. On its website, the museum suggests adding the set to party bags or attaching the badges to a child’s bag to make it more recognisable. Both are great ideas!
Create a Collection
Another clever idea is to encourage your visitors to start a collection of their own. Collectable pins and badges are a great way to inspire creativity and encourage visitors to build their own collection of favourites. Who knows, you could be launching a lifelong hobby for your most enthusiastic patrons. Click here to see a great example from the Royal Airforce Museum shop, which sells detailed, realistic and highly collectable replicas of various aircraft.
Last but not least, no matter which route you take, have fun with it! Gone is the stigma of stuffy, dusty museums. Today, visitors expect to be entertained by impressive, interactive exhibits. You can boost that expectation by imbuing a little humour and lightness in your merchandise. For example, we love these Shakespearean insult badges from the National Portrait Gallery.
We hope this post inspires you to consider museum merchandise at your own institution. You can sell badges and other items in your gift shop or online in a wide range of price points to appeal to all visitors. In many cases, the sale of these items might go towards supporting your institutions’ charitable work, so both you and your patrons should feel good about the purchase. You could also repurpose the items as a thank you gift for donors and important patrons. We’d love to hear about your special exhibits and goals and see how and where the right merchandise can benefit your museum. Please get in touch with us today!