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Tech museum's gift shops not limited to Vatican remembrances

BY William Kerns A-J Entertainment Editor

A cross from the Vatican collection is priced at $20 at Tech museum gift shops
Photos by Matt Hempel Avalanche-Journal
With the exhibit "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection" going strong, having already attracted more than 50,000 visitors thus far to the Museum of Texas Tech, many might be surprised at the query heard most often at the museum's two gift shops.

"Do you have post cards?"

Gary Edson, the museum's executive director, said, "I'm not surprised, really. People who attend museum exhibits often like to buy post cards that have images of the art work they've just seen.

"We've been told by visitors that they really want to be able to buy post cards of the frescoes and then mail them to their friends from here, so the cards are postmarked from Lubbock."

photo: entertainment

  A plate depicting an angel, one of the Art Treasures of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel Collection, costs $20 at the museum's gift shops
Photos by Matt Hempel Avalanche-Journal

That won't happen.

"We had talked about doing post cards and also posters," Edson explained. "But we were told by representatives at the Vatican that using these particular images in such a manner would not be appropriate. The only approved use of any images of the Vatican frescoes are within the exhibit catalogs produced by the museum."

And one might have a better chance of locating the more expensive of these at Internet clearing house eBay rather than at a museum shop.

Only 300 of the hardback catalogs for "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection" were ordered. With some visitors purchasing as many as 25 apiece to give as gifts, the $49.95 hardbacks sold out not long after the June 2 public opening of the exhibit.

photo: entertainment

  Ramon Berzoza, of Odessa, checks out the Museum of Texas Tech's catalog for a never-before-displayed exhibit of 12th century frescoes
Photos by Matt Hempel Avalanche-Journal

The museum also made gifts of some for campus officials.

No more will be produced.

"You always can try to second guess yourself," said Edson, "but I have no regrets. "It always had been our intention to keep prices down across the line for this exhibit."

The museum ordered 10,000 of the identical soft cover catalogs for the frescoes exhibit at $32.95 apiece.

photo: entertainment

  One of the more popular items being sold at the Tech museum's gift shops is a figure called "Vatican nativity," listed for $23.
Photos by Matt Hempel Avalanche-Journal

"Those are the ones I would really like to sell out of," said Edson. "In fact, we already have a pretty amazing ongoing sale. For $49.95, anyone can buy both the soft cover Vatican catalog and also the (soft cover) catalog for the 'Sacred Arts' exhibit reflecting artifacts that are here on loan from Mexico City and the Blaffer Foundation in Houston."

The latter sells for $22.95.

"That's quite a savings," he remarked.

Many patrons visiting the museum gift shops describe items that they saw, but neglected to purchase, when visiting the Vatican Museums in Rome. The chance that a Tech gift shop will have one in stock is slim, but not non-existent.

photo: entertainment

  A miniature fresco, approved for sale by the Vatican, is on display at the Museum of Texas Tech gift shops, priced at $16
Photos by Matt Hempel Avalanche-Journal

Before the exhibit of never-before-displayed frescoes opened, Edson said, Tech museum officials were allowed to glimpse a catalog of items sold in Vatican shops. But more of the items on sale are materials made available by other American museums that had hosted different Vatican exhibits, such as "The Invisible Made Visible: Angels from the Vatican," a touring show that visited five U.S. cities in 1998.

"Working with these other museums was very beneficial," he continued. "We were able to get marketing advice concerning what were the better sellers in their own gift shops. Plus, we didn't have to pay as much in transportation costs.

"Books on the Vatican have proven to be very popular. We have some ball point pens in beautifully designed boxes from the Vatican collection. And we thought it would be good to have some of the bags from the angels exhibit."

Local remembrances include book bags available with the Museum of Texas Tech's name alongside the title of the current Vatican exhibit.

Museum of Texas Tech

• Location: Fourth Street and Indiana Avenue.

• Hours: 1 p.m.-7 p.m. Sunday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Thursday, and 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Closed Mondays.

• Admission: Free.

• Gift shops: Two, one at the front of the museum facing Fourth Street and another in the Sculpture Court at the Indiana Avenue entrance.

• Information: 742-2490

"There also are items unrelated to any exhibit," Edson said. "For example, crosses that are gift-boxed but only similar to those in Vatican collections. And a number of small pins, small crosses and various items of jewelry close to being reproductions."

As far as high dollar items, the Tech museum also sells a number of artistic objects year round as gifts.

"Some that are handmade by such artists as Glenna Goodacre can get up there (in price)," Edson said. "Other things we normally carry are Southwestern crucifixes made of turquoise or coral.

"Those may run higher than $200 and they sell quite well, although, of course, they have nothing to do with the Vatican frescoes. Still, they have appeal to some visitors who have traveled long distances to see this show and also are interested in our other galleries and art from the region."

Post cards reflecting other art works in the Museum of Texas Tech's permanent collection are available. Items also may reflect permanent acquisitions, such as pieces in the museum's African collection.

More than 40 additional volunteers were trained to work in the museum's gift shops this summer. Edson stressed that the gift shops do not benefit the museum, per se, but rather an organization called the Tech Museum Association.

"All profits go to the association, which, in turn, are reallocated to support the activities of the museum," he said. "The only items sold in the shops that the museum has an investment in are the catalogs.

"The association plays a very vital role. They (association members) donate money to support certain museum exhibits and also our educational programs. They assist the museum with a lot of things for which we receive no financial support whatsoever from the university."

One of the things that pleases Edson the most, he said, "is the large number of people who come to Lubbock to look at the frescoes. That's what brought them here. But then I overhear them saying, 'Wow,' because they never dreamed that a museum of such high quality was here or that our collection is so extensive.

"It has always been our goal to be a user-friendly facility."

The Vatican does not receive any percentage from Tech Museum gift shop sales.

wkerns@lubbockonline.com 766-8712

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