On Museum Shop Sunday this year the John Rylands Library took part in the first ever North West Museum Shop Market hosted by Manchester Art Gallery along with 11 other museums and galleries across the North West (all participants are listed below).

This is the first time the library has taken part in Museum Shop Sunday and I was excited to be involved and help organise this event.

How did the Museum Shop Market come about?

During one of the North West talking shops earlier this year we had a discussion as a group about potential ideas and activities for Museum Shop Sunday. The Christmas markets are a big deal in Manchester and we wondered if there was something related to that we could do. Charles Mackenzie from Manchester Art Gallery shared his experience of hosting a makers’ market in the Art Gallery the previous year and the idea for the Museum Shop Market was born! We all agreed it would be a great way to all come together and celebrate the diverse and unique range of gifts that museum shops have to offer.

The next steps

Charles kindly offered to host the Museum Shop Market at Manchester Art Gallery and we were able to draw on his previous experience from similar events. Once the location was organised we needed to find out which venues would like to be involved. In total 12 venues signed up for the event. At the next talking shop the Museum Shop Market was high on the agenda where we discussed the practical operations of the day, for example how many tables were required, payment methods, visual merchandising and marketing.


Once the venues had signed up we contacted the Association for Cultural Enterprises with the list of attendants and we signed up for Museum Shop Sunday though the website. Their team were then able to help us promote the event and sent out the Museum Shop Sunday pack to Manchester Art Gallery; we all had our sticker on! Each venue also promoted the Museum Shop Market through their own marketing channels. At the John Rylands Library we used Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to promote the event. On Instagram we posted around 4 stories with each being views over 400 times.

What stock to take?

The next step was to think about what stock we should take. We discussed at the talking shop how the stock should be a representation of our museums / galleries. For the John Rylands Library I wanted to make sure that the stock helped to tell visitors about the library, our amazing collection and our place in Manchester. We selected a range of bespoke products produced using the collection as well as off the shelf products which help to tell the story of the library. We made sure that we took along our best sellers and had a number of different price points.

Museum Shop Sunday – the day itself!

It was great to see all of the stalls coming together and to see how well the stock represented the museum and galleries they had come from. One of the great things about the North West talking shop is the feeling of community, sharing and support and this was echoed at the Museum Shop Market. There was a real buzz in the market; visitors really seems to enjoy having a look around all of the different stalls. For some organisations it was a great opportunity to promote their venues as well as the amazing products on offer in their shops. I had some really good conversations with people that had never visited the John Rylands Library and were then planning on making it their next visit that day!

Would we do it again?

I had a fantastic time; it was a good atmosphere and I loved working with my colleagues from across the region. We had good sales that day and feedback from the other venues was that sales were also really strong. One venue commented that the market had doubled their usual income for that day. All of the participants felt that the event had not only been positive in sales but it had also been a really successful way to promote our venues and collections. It was a really fun event. I loved seeing the amazing range of products on offer and I may have made the odd purchase! I can’t wait for Museum Shop Market 2020!

You could never visit all of these galleries / museums in one day. This is a unique opportunity to visit all of these shops under the one roof

Kate Mellor, Retail Manager, The Lowry

List of participants

Jodrell Bank
Manchester Museum
The Whitworth Art Gallery
The Lowry
National Football Museum
People’s History Museum
Victoria Baths
Elizabeth Gaskell’s House
The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art
Bolton Museum
Salford Museum and Ordsall Hall

Liza Leonard
By Liza Leonard
Liza is the Visitor Engagement Manager: Reception and Retail at the John Rylands Library in Manchester.
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