Museeum had the pleasure to explore the various shops found in the Natural History Museum of London not too long ago. Besides the fun Dino Shop and the main museum shop, we were warmly greeted and shown around the newly opened Cranbourne Boutique. The new store is intended to target more adult and hip audiences. Collaborations with prominent artists give birth to luxury fashion items while themes represented in the museum serve inspiration for acesssories and homeware.
We sat down withe the boutique's buyer, Rosie Gibbs, to find out more about venture first hand!
How many shops does NHM have at the moment and how do they differ?
The Natural History Museum in London has three permanent retail outlets – the Museum Shop, the Dino Store, and the Cranbourne Boutique, plus an extensive online offer. We aim to tailor each retail space towards key museum visitor segments, to ensure that we offer a range of compelling and high-quality gifts for everyone who is either looking for a souvenir of their visit, or simply wants to purchase a beautiful gift inspired by the natural world.
The Museum Shop highlights souvenir and Natural History Museum branded gifts. As our flagship store, it boasts an extensive offer of children’s wildlife and dinosaur products, plus key museum souvenir ranges such as those inspired by Charles Darwin, London and the history of the museum and its architecture. There is also an extensive selection of book titles on all aspects of the natural world, plus a beautiful range of art prints inspired by images in the NHM archives and library, and a digital lounge for people to relax and shop online – including a range of unique personalised gifts.
The Dino Store celebrates all things prehistoric and offers an abundance of dinosaur plush, models, educational games and apparel, with all NHM branded products being scientifically approved by our very own museum paleontologists. A definite pit-stop for all dinosaur-loving kids!
The Cranbourne Boutique aims to be a treasure trove of natural world inspired books and gifts carefully curated for adults, including elegant fashion ranges, scale model replicas of star specimens, luxury home decorations and inspiring art prints. The Cranbourne Boutique focuses on more design-led gifting with a number of key retail collections developed in collaboration with emerging British designers and that are totally exclusive to our museum visitors.
In addition to these permanent locations, we also have shops for each of our temporary exhibitions, for which we range a selection of products themed around the content and stories being told to our visitors – so there is always something new and exciting to discover!
Why did you feel the need to create the Cranbourne Boutique? Tell us a bit more about its concept.
Our Museum Shop and Dino Store can both get incredibly busy during peak times and tend to attract families and younger visitors, and so the ethos behind the Cranbourne Boutique was to provide a separate but complimentary shopping experience for older visitors, with specially trained staff and a carefully curated collection of products aimed specifically at visitors who, for example, are looking for more of a design-led product over a souvenir. The overall concept was to expand our adult-orientated gifting categories in an inviting and spacious environment to encourage visitors to dwell, with a particular emphasis on men’s gifts, working with local British designers and highlighting products made in the UK.
Did you have any challenges trying to bring new audiences in?
We are lucky in that we have access to audience and visitor feedback and data, so while the strategy behind the Cranbourne Boutique is to encourage more adult visitors to shop with us and think of us as a key local gift retailer, in many ways it has been about developing a product offer in response to key adult audience segments that we understand are visiting the museum, but have previously not targeted significantly through our commercial offer. There is always the challenge that the museum may largely be perceived as a family ‘dinosaur’ museum, but the launch of the Cranbourne Boutique was timely in that it coincided with the opening of our brand new Human Evolution gallery, and the newly re-designed and re-furbished Coffee House and Kitchen Restaurant – providing a haven for older visitors in the Red Zone area of the museum.
What are the current highlights of the Cranbourne Boutique?
Current highlights in the Cranbourne Boutique include a range of men’s fashion clothing by the Shackleton Design & Manufacturing Company with lines exclusive to the Natural History Museum, a limited edition capsule range of silk scarves and women’s clothing in collaboration with British design brand Klements, and a collection of pioneering 3D prints of museum specimens such as Han Sloane’s nautilus shell cast in bronze, a stegosaurus skull and iguanodon teeth. We are one of the first museums in the world to retail bespoke 3D prints, and each one is an exact scale limited edition replica of the real specimen, allowing visitors to take home a truly unique and scientifically accurate keepsake from the museum.
We are big fans of your recent collaborations with Charlotte Allen and Rory Dobner! Can you please share with our readers the stories behind these collaborations. We heard you let these artists dig into your archives! Lucky them.
The collaboration with London designer Charlotte Allen, under her luxury brand Klements, is on a range of limited edition hand-finished silk scarves, tops and dress designed exclusively for the museum. The pieces are entirely designed using imagery & photography taken in and around the museum, and the Natural History Museum archives. Charlotte spent many days researching inside the museum and the final designs are a collage of some of our most iconic specimens as well as architectural highlights, the aim being to demonstrate how the museum’s collections can be re-interpreted for contemporary design & fashion.
We commissioned London designer Rory Dobner to work on an exclusive premium souvenir offer inspired by the iconic architecture of the Natural History Museum, in particular the stunning terracotta designs of our front façade designed by Alfred Waterhouse. Rory also spent many days sketching outside the museum, as well as in our library pouring over the elevations for the building, and Alfred Waterhouse’s original watercolour sketches of a variety of stunning architectural highlights. A true labor of love, the original museum illustration by Rory is over two meters long, but various crops have been carefully applied to a range of premium fine bone china and textile home and kitchen products, many of which have been hand-finished with a 22 carat gold edge and are all made in the UK, a very special souvenir!
How do you think the museum mission and vision translate in to the Cranbourne Boutique?
The products in the Cranbourne Boutique have been carefully selected to capture people’s fascination and love of the natural world, in an effort to remind them of its beauty and hopefully to encourage them to learn about and protect it in their everyday lives. The range of exclusive art prints, for example, have been hand-picked from our extensive art collection in the museum archives, bringing a new lease of life to scientific drawings that first educated the public about the natural world over one hundred years ago. The Human Biology and Charles Darwin inspired ranges tap into the museum’s discourses about the origins and evolution of life on earth, while our mission to work towards a sustainable future is reflected in the decision to source high-quality locally made products that can be treasured and remain relevant for many generations to come. Our determination to continually celebrate the diversity of life can be seen across all ranges, where products are developed by a particular ‘story’ pertaining to the natural world – this captures everything from insects in our seasonal ‘Butterflies’ range, to the study of the natural world in our ‘Explorer’ offer, and even a range of jewellery and make-up inspired by the wonders of space and iconography of galaxies and nebulas.
Your book selection is very impressive. What sort of titles are you determined to introduce to the audience of the Cranbourne?
The environment and shop design of the Cranbourne Boutique has allowed us to expand our book offer, and in particular range larger ‘coffee table’ decorative books that we have struggled to include in the other shop locations. From unusual educational and scientific tomes on human evolution to compliment the new exhibition gallery, to an extensive range of beautiful adult coloring books and boxed art prints, we are determined to bring to our visitors the most inspiring and compelling range of titles inspired by the wonders of the natural world.
What are your personal favorites and seasonal must-haves from the shop?
My favorite lines in the shop include the limited edition silk dress designed by Klements Ltd (who knew a specimen jar could look so fashionable!) as well as a small range of clutch bags, purses and necklaces designed to look like vintage books you may have plucked from an old museum bookshelf. These particular products are part of a range inspired by the early concept of a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ - historically these were collections of rare, valuable and unusual objects, and in many ways this process of specimen collection for research and admiration, has evolved into the contemporary museum collections we see today. Seasonal must-haves include large statement mineral rings and pendants that are popular in Spring/Summer fashion trends, as well as festival-ready make-up from London based cruelty-free cosmetic brand Barry M.
Tell us about your future plans. Do you have any unusual collaborations lined up? Shall we be expecting a pop-up NHM shop in Hoxton or a collection inspired fashion show at the next LFW?
We are continually working on expanding best-selling ranges and responding to sales, so look out for new additions over the summer, including a range of stationery inspired by Thomas Henry Huxley, (who was known as Charles Darwin’s bulldog) which aims to complement our new Human Evolution Gallery as well as new decorative homeware pieces in our Cabinet of Curiosities range. There will also be a highlight of products from our forthcoming ‘Colour and Vision: Through the Eyes of Nature’ exhibition opening in mid-July, so keep your eyes peeled for exclusive products celebrating nature’s vast color palette, including a collaboration with online retailer Etsy Ltd, who promote independent designer makers.