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How museum gift shops decide what to sell

What’s in a gift shop affects how we see art.

Gift shops are like the final exhibit of an art museum. They’re often located toward the exit and are unmissable on your way out the door. Souvenirs inside can range from Vincent Van Gogh socks to giant stuffed soup cans to Mona Lisa rubber ducks. But how do gift shop curators decide what to sell?

Stocking decisions often revolve around how curators want visitors to perceive the art lining museum walls. When you see a certain piece of art on a lot of merchandise, that usually means curators think that artwork is important. And thanks to a psychological phenomenon called the mere-exposure effect, the more you see that art, the more you may begin to think it’s important.

For more on museum gift shops, The Goods has an explainer by Micaela Marini Higgs.

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