December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Like yogurt, its got culture

By Rick Markley

Editor in Chief

Topics: Museology, Museum

If it’s a Georgia O’Keefe poster to liven the work space, a replica Egyptian statue to spark conversation at home or a surreal vertical puzzle to intrigue a child, Museumshop.com offers up a warehouse full of culturally cool stuff.

The site partners with more than 50 museums worldwide (including the British Museum, Children’s Museum-Boston and the Yale University Art Gallery) to provide 4,000 products. But it is more than the quantity or quality of offerings that pushed the site into the top 25; it is the presentation. Like that gold-mine-of-a-find shop in an out-of-the-way town, Museumshop offers its treasures in a simple format wrapped in expert descriptions. Each item has a description of its historical significance and dimensions, as well as an enlargable photo. And like that small shop, many of the prices are reasonable. Although a replica 1st Century Head of Aphrodite from the British Museum sells for $700, bargain hunters can get Georgia O’Keefe works for the $30 or less.

Museumshop buys the items from the partner museums and sells them at the same price as the partner museum. This prevents the site from competing with its partners or cutting them out of the profits. There also is a 10% discount on some items for those who belong to the museum offering the item, the same discount members get at the museum. In addition to standard search features, the site also has a gift finder. The gift finder prompts users to fill in gender, age, price range and occasion fields for recipient. The site also has a page of corporate gifts and a section of toys and games.

But the site goes beyond the selling and replicates to a small extent the experience of going to a museum: It offers a virtual exhibition tour that combines images and audio descriptions; recent virtual tours included Mystic Seaport in Connecticut and the Adirondack Museum. A click to buy button is always handy.

Museumshop.com

Arlington, Mass.

Monthly visitors: 250,000

Sales: N/A

Went live: December 1997

Design by: In-house

OS: Windows NT

E-C Software: N/A

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