Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 29
 
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
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TREASURE TROVE: “A very popular gift item has been the 1884 Princeton map. It’s a bird’s-eye view of Princeton at that time, and is a favorite of Princeton University alumni and people interested in Princeton history.” Kathy O’ Hara, manager of and buyer for the Morven Gift Shop, is shown by the map (above her left shoulder). To her right is the shop’s popular jewelry selection.

Paperweights, Picture Frames, Teacups, Trays Are Some of Many Items at Morven Museum Shop

It has got to be the best kept secret in town! The Morven Museum Shop at 55 Stockton Street, next to the Museum, is filled with a selection of delightful surprises in a wide price range. The charming setting in an 1844 building that was formerly Morven’s Wash House makes browsing and buying an additional pleasure.

“The concept of the shop is to carry on Morven’s mission and to promote New Jersey culture and history, and the Morven Garden,” explains Kathy O’Hara, who has been manager and buyer since 2005, a year after the shop opened.

The store is a treasure trove of gifts for family and friends, and an especially outstanding source of hostess gifts. Many items in the shop have a relationship to Morven, the historic former home to Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and later home to five New Jersey Governors from 1946 to 1981. The house is now a museum, and features permanent and rotating exhibits exploring the history and culture of New Jersey.

“Some of our gifts are historically oriented, and others can serve as a guide to the museum’s changing exhibitions,” says Ms. O’ Hara. “We also develop our own Morven signature items, including scarves, stationery, notecards, and books.”

Current Exhibition

Morven’s current exhibition focuses on the Stocktons throughout the centuries, and it has attracted many Stockton family descendents from all over, adds Ms. O’Hara.

The museum’s exhibits typically change every three months, and the new one, beginning August 7, will feature “The Kennedys: Portrait of a Family”. On loan from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, this exhibit will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the first family as seen through the lens of photographer Richard Avedon.

“We will have related items in the shop, including books about JFK and Jackie, and the Avedon book of photos,” notes Ms. O’Hara.

Morven also had a very popular previous exhibit, “Rocks & Dinos”, which attracted many children and young people, she continues. “We had ‘A Night at The Museum’ geared to families, with interactive events, and 400 people came!”

In connection with that exhibit, the shop featured a variety of rocks and books, including When Dinosaurs Roamed New Jersey by William Gallagher. “The exhibition featured historic paintings by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, along with fossils, engravings, dinosaur models, and manuscripts from Hawkins’ collection,” says Ms. O’Hara. “It was very, very popular, and we still have a variety of rocks and books relating to it.”

In addition, pottery, trays, vases, hand towels, paperweights (with butterfly design), beautifully-packaged soaps, candles and candle snuffers, children’s toys, and very popular earrings, necklaces, and bracelets are all part of the shop’s eclectic collection. You can find everything from local honey to area rugs!

Silk Scarves

The prices range from under $10 to $75, with many in the $20-$25 range. All proceeds go to Morven.

“One of the most popular items we have had is a $6 silver-plated coffee scoop. People love it,” reports Ms. O’ Hara. “We also have beautiful hand-screened silk scarves, and one is based on a botanical drawing of wisteria which was on Morven’s front porch.”

Other special items include an all-in-one “Teacup and Teapot for One.” Tea can be brewed in the pot (which also doubles as a cover for the cup), and then served in the cup. In assorted designs, it ranges from $18 to $25.

There are also playing cards, over-size paper napkins in various designs, packaged in handsome boxes, vases of differing sizes, and a variety of boxes, including diminutive blue and white choices in different designs and shapes.

A metal perpetual calendar with bird designs is intriguingly different, and a decorative lemon wreath will add a cheerful look to a porch this summer. And planning ahead, you may like to take home one of Morven’s signature Christmas tree ornaments.

“We also have some great men’s gifts, including a clock in a leather case, and another free-standing battery-operated clock, with a working pendulum,” says Ms. O’Hara. In addition, handsome walking sticks, featuring nickel-plated ducks and horse handles, are another attractive gift for a man.

Teddy Bears

Children’s toys include tin whistles, wooden pick-up sticks, teddy bears (reasonably priced at $9),and a variety of books. American Kids in History/Colonial Days offers a look at children’s lives and activities from long ago.

Items are conveniently displayed, with intriguing nooks and crannies and cubbies revealing still more hard-to-resist specialties.

“With each season, we try to have a different look in the shop with different items,” points out Ms. O’ Hara. “This is a pleasure for me. I enjoy buying for the store — who doesn’t like to shop? — and I have gotten to know what the clients like and how many items to have on hand.

“I enjoy driving down the driveway on my way in every morning, and we always welcome volunteers to work in the shop. This is a special place.”

The many visitors, including lots of tourists as well as home-grown shoppers, would agree. Many people also enjoy coming to the shop after sampling Morven’s popular Wednesday Afternoon Tour and Tea. Another plus when stopping in at the store is the opportunity to enjoy the Morven Garden, including the spacious lawn featuring splendid trees, beds of heirloom annuals from the 18th and 19th centuries, and a re-creation of the Colonial Revival-style garden that was planted at Morven in the early 20th Century.

The Morven Gift Shop is open Wednesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 4. (609) 924-8144, ext. 103. Website: www.morven.org.

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