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Like a kid in a ... museum store
Bryan Miller probably looked silly on his whirlwind trip of New York City museums — the MOMA, the American Museum of Folk Art. He did 14 in five days, speed-walking through the galleries to get to the museums' stores. That's where he spent his real time, slowly dissecting each space, taking mental notes (and some literal ones) on what might work, or not, back home at the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art and Science.
“I've always loved museums. And I've always loved shopping,” say Miller, the MET's store manager. He studied art history at Fresno State while working in retail at the buying office at Gottschalks, so helping the museum reopen its retail space was a dream job.
The store will be part of the MET's 55-hour grand-reopening celebration, which starts witha ribbon cutting, 5 p.m., tonight.
And Miller is a kid in a candy store, bounce-stepping from item to item, unable to pick a favorite. He eventually comes up with three, based loosely on age appropriateness.
For the little ones, there's the Wedgits geometry construction toys. For the bigger kids (“you and me,” Miller says) there's a color-cube 3-D puzzle that's on display. It runs through the color spectrum and took Miller several hours to build. For the grownups he chooses stationery, a notebook decorated with a blue print of the MET building.
Every item meets one of three criteria, Miller says. Either it ties into the museum's permanent collection (like a series of stationery featuring botanical watercolors from Abigail Lyman), or the current exhibit (any number of dinosaur toys) or it works with the museum's mission.
That's a sort of nonprofit rule, he says. But it's also good sense.
“You come in and you can take home a tangible memory from your day at the MET.”
So, there is the MET stuff — mouse pads, coffee mugs, T-shirts — all emblazoned with the museum's new logo. But the other stuff draws the eye. Like an articulated T-Rex figurine, or a metallic Stegosaurus pencil sharpener. There's an insanely cool soda-can bug (it's made from a soda can, and it crawls) and a toy car that runs on water. There's art/science stuff too, like build-your-own pinhole cameras, sun-print kits and a 3-D drawing pad.
And everything in the store (save for the books) is unique to Fresno, meaning you won't find it anyplace else. That's important, Miller says.
“A visitor expects that in a museum store.”
If some of the merchandise seems off the mark (a gummy ring that lights up from the inside), that's the idea too, Miller says. The store is meant to be fun and whimsical and novel, without crossing the line into “just kind of silly.”
The two are not the same and not mutually exclusive, Miller says.
The store's collection of dinosaur chopsticks are right on the mark.
The Famous wish list (if you're Christmas-shopping early and are thinking of us):
* Matchstick Garden — This is just what it sounds like. A cute little book of matches. Bury the matchstick in the ground and watch a flower grow.
* Lomography 4 shot camera — Go old school, as in actual film, with this camera that uses one picture for four exposures. Science ... it's crazy huh?
* Digit Band Watch — I love watches. At $5, I can buy one of these crazy-colored plastic watches for each day of the week.
* Dinosaur chopsticks — These idiot-proof chopsticks are perfect for anyone who loves dinosaurs. Or those who haven't yet mastered the wood ones.
Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art and Science Store
Open during the museum's 55-hour grand-reopening celebration, Nov. 13 to 16
1555 Van Ness Ave.