Gifts In All Styles and For All Occasions Are on Display at The Morven Museum Shop
A TRUE TREASURE: “Customers are enjoying coming in again. They really like to see things firsthand. We also have online shopping, but many of our customers have fun coming into the shop and enjoying the in-store atmosphere.” Debra Lampert-Rudman (left), curator of education and public programs at Morven Museum, and Kathy O’Hara, hospitality manager and buyer for The Morven Museum Shop, are enthusiastic about the shop’s treasure trove of gifts. They are shown at Morven’s annual “Festival of Trees” holiday event.
By Jean Stratton
It has been called “the best kept secret in town.” The Morven Museum Shop at 55 Stockton Street, next to Morven Museum & Garden, is filled with a selection of delightful items in a wide price range.
With the holidays fast approaching, it is the perfect place to find a special gift. The selection is indeed a treasure trove of surprises for friends and family, and all in a variety of styles and signature specialties.
The shop itself is a fascinating piece of history. Dating to 1844, the building was formerly Morven’s Wash House.
“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 Hospitality Manager and Buyer Kathy O’Hara, who has been with the shop since it opened in 2005.
Many items in the shop have a relationship to Morven, the historic former home of 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 O’Hara. “We also develop our own Morven signature items, including scarves, stationery, notecards, and books.”
After having been closed for several months during the COVID-19 pandemic, the shop is now fully open. State regulations and safety precautions are in effect, and masks are currently worn in the shop.
“During the height of COVID, we also had a lot of events outdoors,” adds Debra Lampert-Rudman, Morven’s curator of education and public programs.
Outdoor events will continue with Morven’s upcoming “Festival of Trees” fundraiser, “Winter Garden Party,” to be held December 2 at 6 p.m. The outdoor party will feature fire pits, lights, hot drinks, and refreshments, she points out.
“Morven’s 16th ‘Festival of Trees’ is an annual highlight of the holiday season, and showcases a collection of trees and mantels displayed throughout the museum and galleries,” says Lampert-Rudman. “Thousands of holiday ornaments and decorations can be seen throughout the museum and outdoors.”
Numerous trees decorated by various organizations and garden clubs are now on display through January 9. Also, adds Lampert-Rudman, “December programming around this year’s ‘Festival of Trees’ includes holiday wreath workshops, virtual story times, and an at-home baking contest.”
Baking kits will be available at the Museum Shop, notes O’Hara, as well as embroidery and craft kits.
Customers will find an array of items suitable for many occasions, including a large selection of hostess gifts. Picture frames, pottery, trays, vases, umbrellas, clocks, candles, and candlesticks are charmingly displayed, along with scarves, accent pillows for every season, and beautifully-packaged soaps.
In addition, there are playing cards, note cards, and greeting cards, as well as bird houses and books. Many of the books focus on New Jersey and American history, and a number of gifts are Morven-related, including a Morven jigsaw puzzle and magnets.
Among the holiday items are two signature Morven Christmas ornaments: one, a silver image of Morven, and the second, an image of Morven on an enamel ornament. Both are boxed. There is also a duck decoy ornament, relating to Morven’s current “In Nature’s Realm” exhibit.
A selection of holiday gifts is expected soon, adds O’Hara, and will include assorted Christmas pillows, ornaments, candles, and various decorative items. The festive holiday atmosphere is enhanced by a Christmas tree, decorated with various seasonal ornaments.
The shop’s jewelry selection is a continuing highlight and always one of the most popular exhibits for customers. From delicate to dramatic, the array of bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and pins is an intriguing addition to the shop’s overall display.
“We have a full range of jewelry, and a lot is nature-inspired,” points out O’Hara. “Our jewelry selection is always a big drawing point for customers — as a gift for others or something for themselves.”
There are many pieces with leaf designs, and one especially attractive and versatile pin can be worn both as a stunning pin or as a striking pendant on a chain.
Children’s items are always fun during the holidays, and a variety of toys; books; piggy banks in assorted colors; and a charming tea set, with teacups, creamer, and sugar, are all displayed.
Gifts for men are also available, including a selection of handsome clocks, and an intriguing gold magnifying glass, with feather-shaped handle, among other items.
Indeed, gifts for every taste and lifestyle are all offered — really something for everyone on your list, including yourself!
Your favorite tea drinker will enjoy the “Teacup and Teapot For One” in assorted designs. Other ideas include a handsome hammered pewter tray with leaf accent design, botanical prints, coasters, placemats, and a lovely vase in the always popular blue and white design.
Crannies and Cubbies
The appealing arrangement and array of the gifts is one of the pleasures of visiting the shop. Items are conveniently displayed, with intriguing nooks, crannies, and cubbies revealing still more hard-to-resist treasures.
“With each season, we try to have a different look in the shop, with different items,” points out 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.”
“They really seem to like everything across the board,” she adds. “Sometimes a group will come in together, and one person sees something she or he likes, and then everyone wants it. The power of suggestion! We have many regular customers too, who like to come in and see what’s new.
“I enjoy helping them with the wonderful variety of items we have, and we also have a great staff here, who all contribute to make this such a special place.”
“Also, in some ways, especially during COVID, we have reinvented ourselves,” says O’Hara. “We have added virtual programs, and outdoor events. We plan more events in January.
“In addition, this past September, we had ‘Smithsonian Museum Day’ in connection with the Morven exhibit. It was the biggest day for the shop, with more than 200 visitors!”
Many people who visit the Morven Museum exhibits then come into the shop, she reports. Those who are members of the Museum have a regular 10 percent discount at the shop, and on Sunday, November 28 through December 5, there will be a 10 percent discount for all visitors (including non-members) and 15 percent for members. Keeping prices within an affordable range, while offering quality products, is very important for O’Hara.
There really is something for every pocketbook, with items starting at $5, many within the $20-$25 range, on up to $75-plus. All the proceeds go to support Morven’s programs and events.
The Morven Museum Shop is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (609) 924-8144, ext. 103. Website: morven.org.