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Sport Heritage Souvenirs

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A quick post today, owing to a very full pre-term schedule of manuscript reviews, writing of (hopefully) high quality international research, and preparing my tenure file (eeep!)  But, I wanted to share this bushel (basket?) of sport heritage swag from the US Hockey Hall of Fame given to me by a couple of friends and colleagues, Bill and Jennifer Norman, when they were on vacation in Minnesota earlier this month. Not only do I appreciate their generosity, it got me to thinking about the role of sport heritage souvenirs – not necessarily those souvenirs that have become sport heritage, per se (like, say, a program or pin from an Olympic Games) but rather those souvenirs that come from sport heritage attractions, as well as the role that retail plays at sport heritage attractions.

I think it goes without saying that retail is an increasingly important part of heritage attractions – sport-based or otherwise.  In a study I did a few years ago about tours of Twickenham Stadium in London, some of my informants suggested that the stadium tours and museum existed in large part to draw visitors to the shop.  Earlier this month, I was at the Hockey Hall of Fame shop in Toronto – I only had time to visit the shop rather than the full museum and, in fact, the shop was more prominent from street level than the museum was (interestingly, I heard a couple of people in the shop asking where the museum was, and a few debating whether they wanted to go to the museum having already experienced it’s retail arm). Interestingly, most of the souvenirs at the Hockey Hall of Fame shop had little to do with the hall of fame itself and were more just NHL products. 

In any event, the souvenirs I received from my colleagues actually inspired other conversations –  co-reminiscing about particular players or games, as well as their experiences at the hall of fame.  Seemingly, the US Hockey Hall of Fame is also mainly a museum that happens to have a gift shop, rather than a retail space with some heritage on the side.  That being said, I wonder if some smaller sites like the US Hockey Hall of Fame will look to larger sites and develop their retail/catering/rentals side in order to support their collections – or, to simply develop a heritage “experience” that doesn’t require any engagement with the museum itself?


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