A grandfather gets a gift from his granddaughter. (Shutterstock Photo/Drazen Zigic) Gratitude
A grandfather gets a gift from his granddaughter. (Shutterstock Photo/Drazen Zigic)

Buying a membership, shopping in the gift store, or registering for an educational program will help you finish your holiday shopping and keep an important community asset open.

It hasn’t been an ordinary year, so why buy an ordinary present? 

Think outside the box (store) this holiday season, and give a loved one a gift that’s probably not on their list. From a membership to any one of the numerous museums in the state to an interesting, unique item from the gift shop, you won’t have to worry about returning anything this year. 

Plus, you’ll be supporting a valuable asset to the community—one that has been hit hard by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We have a great story to tell,” said Tammy Myers, President of the Gettysburg Heritage Center. “History IS important, and it’s important to remember it and to learn from it. Many may not stop to think about it, but we’re making history this year. “

Myers said the museum’s closure earlier this year and restrictions on its capacity have been “financially devastating.” 

Deirdre Maher, spokeswoman for the Barnes Foundation, said the museum lost $2 million in revenue during the statewide shutdown in the spring, and expects to lose another $400,000 during the current closures in Philadelphia.

While museums in other parts of the state, such as the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, are open, all are following COVID-19 restrictions, including limiting capacity (down to 10%), and requiring masks and temperature screenings for visitors. 

The Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, in western Pennsylvania, typically gets 6,000 to 7,000 visitors in a year, but won’t hit that number this year, said museum president and executive director Janie McKirgan.

“We will survive,” McKirgan said. “Let’s just hope 2021 is a better year.”

In the meantime, Myers and others said, museums across the state need support.

Don’t know what to get that hard-to-shop-for person on your list? Find some inspiration from this list of gifts you can order online from museums across the state:

Astronaut Pen from Carnegie Science Center

Help the writer in your life jot down their ideas anywhere—even upside-down or underwater—with this astronaut pen from the science museum in Pittsburgh. The chrome-plated pen, which has black ink, was originally designed for use on the Apollo 7 mission. $70.95

Cephalothoracopagus Desk Weight from The Mütter Museum

If your loved one’s tastes tend toward the gothic and/or scientific, you could get this glass paperweight. The 1-pound weight is etched with an image of a Cephalothoracopagus (twins who are joined at the head and chest) skeleton, like the one featured in this Philadelphia museum’s collection. $35.

Dinosaur Puzzle from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Help the little dinosaur lover in your life learn their ABCs with this brightly colored chunky dinosaur puzzle. $12.

Doorknocker Cuff Bracelet from the Barnes Foundation

This unique metalwork bracelet was designed exclusively for the museum in Philadelphia, and inspired by the motifs on the plate of an 18th century French doorknocker in the museum’s collection. It’s made of bronze with sterling silver wirework. You have your choice of a carnelian, jade, or white pearl feature stone. $190.

Fightin’ Irish Ornament from the Gettysburg Heritage Center

The history buff in your life might like this ornament that depicts the Union Irish Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg. The brigade famously faced Gen. George Pickett’s charge, and “put up a magnificent fight that saved the Angle and killed any chance that Pickett’s division might push the Federals off Cemetery Ridge,” one historian wrote. $5.99.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” Throw from the Jimmy Stewart Museum

This soft cotton throw features the final scene of the Christmas classic that stars Indiana, Pennsylvania, native Jimmy Stewart. It will keep your loved one’s lap—and heart—warm this winter. $69.99.

LEGO Marilyn from The Andy Warhol Museum

Add a pop of color to an art lover’s life with this LEGO Marilyn set. This 3,332-piece set allows the builder to create a colorful 15.5-inch square Andy Warhol-style portrait (there are four different possibilities) of Marilyn Monroe that they can hang on their wall. $119.99.

Mandala and Flower Coloring Books from The Crayola Experience

Even teenagers and adults like to color sometimes. These two coloring books have some intricate and beautiful designs to fill in, and 50 colored pencils for grown-up coloring. $40.47.

Mr. Rogers Encouragemints from the Carnegie Museum of Art

Give your loved ones fresh breath and a smile with these Mr. Rogers Encouragemints from the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. The tiny tin will make a great stocking stuffer. $3.50.

Portrait Gallery Kit from the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Help the child in your life make fun, brightly colored, 3-D animal portraits with this kit from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s perfect for an art class while children are still learning at home. $12.50.

Rainbow Maker from The Franklin Institute

Give rainbows to the dreamer in your life with this solar-powered rainbow maker. They place the rainbow maker in direct sunlight, and its crystal rotates and refracts the light to create a swirl of rainbows in the room. $34.99.

“Tree of Life” Double Old Fashioned Tumblers from Fallingwater

Classic and modern at the same time, Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Tree of Life” design decorates these Double Old Fashioned glasses. The same design appears on the windows in the central stairway landing at the Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo, New York. The glasses are produced in Pittsburgh. $25.99 for a set of two.