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Why Books Belong in Museum Stores

by Stuart Hata, Director of Retail Operations

Not only does the selling of books in our stores directly fulfill our mission to educate the public, they also document, represent, and communicate our institution’s collections and programming for the sake of our cultural patrimony. At the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, books greet our visitors at the front of each store location. The current exhibition catalogues, museum collection books, and best-selling titles displayed help to set the educational tone of our stores and announce to our customers, that books are important.

In a world where bookstores are becoming increasingly rare, museum stores can help fill-in certain voids, such as offering local-interest titles in addition to mission-related tomes. Museums are after all, connected to a certain place and most receive visitors from all over the country and world. In our stores, our section of local-interest “San Francisco” titles not only fulfill the interest and needs of locals and visitors alike, but they also help to communicate the special place our museum occupies within our community.

Books also provide great opportunities for collaboration and partnerships both within and outside of the museum. Within our institution, we work very closely with our publications department on title development for upcoming exhibitions and collection needs. Outside of the museum, we actively pursue publishing opportunities with external collaborators, particularly in the area of special publications such as children’s and general interest books. Our museum’s first children’s title, the award-winning I Heart Art guided activity journal, was inspired by works of art from our collection with activities written from our education department. The book has been a best seller ever since it was published in 2014.

Books always have been a part of and should always belong in museum stores. Not only do they directly fulfill a museum store’s educational mission, but they also help communicate and emphasize the importance of museum stores’ to our institutions and communities.

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