PRO-File – MSA Vendor Member

October 23, 2017

Name: Donald Burns

Job Title: Director of Sales, Discoveries and Museum Reproductions

Business Name: Discoveries Egyptian Imports and Museum Reproductions

Location: Longmont, Colorado

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and moved to San Diego, California about 12 years ago. I now reside in Napa.

What does your company do? How long has your company been in existence?

I consider myself to be so incredibly lucky to work for two different companies that have each been in existence for approximately thirty years. Discoveries Egyptian Imports is a company that imports high quality products from Egypt: glassware, figurines, children’s educational products and much, much more. All of the products and their packaging are authentic and made in Cairo or Luxor. Museum Reproductions is a jewelry company that reproduces jewelry under license from museum collections throughout the world.

What is your role within your company? Have you changed positions within the company? Worked for another company?

I have done sales and product development for Discoveries for almost 15 years. I started out as a sales representative but then both my role and the company morphed into what it has become today. I went to Egypt and was able to learn more about the products we were developing. At the same time, I visited more museums and learned what products, especially custom ones, that buyers were searching for and so my role and the company evolved tremendously.

As many buyers know, Museum Reproductions was originally founded by Lars Messler who recently passed away. Lars and the owner of Discoveries, Steve Collins, were great friends for many years and when Lars passed it seemed like a great partnership for Steve to assume the role of leadership at Museum Reproductions. Working with Jessica Audet, she and I can now continue to expand the role of Museum Reproductions by collaborating, not just with American museums, but with collections around the world. It’s so awesome that I get to work with such talented people in all these different museums and their incredible collections. I love what I do!

Describe the life journey that brought you to this career (i.e. tell our readers about your interesting life so far…) what drove you to this?

I’m so thankful to my parents for how they raised me! As an only child, they were determined to expose me to all of the cultural institutions in and around the Philadelphia area. It instilled in me a life-long wish to be close to the art, the history, and culture of all of these great places. Additionally, I have to thank Steve Collins, the owner of Discoveries. He is one of the kindest people I know and he really values taking care of his customers. We work very well together and a lot of our clients feel like family.

Tell us about the first sale you ever made to a museum or non-profit institution… what was it? Who did you sell it to?

I started out in picture framing and the very first customer I had was Judy Luther at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Judy taught me so much about museums and how to work with a collection. She knew museum retail was special and different from regular retail and how to translate an artifact or a painting into a great product.

Did you feel like a partner in that process? Are you still?

The framing industry has changed so much but, yes, I still do framing with NGA. Translating art into merchandise is our main goal with Museum Reproductions. Lately, we have been working with the Barnes to produce a Renoir bangle and have finished a beautiful line of Cherry Blossom jewelry with the Huntington Library and Gardens — just to name a few projects. Last year, Discoveries won the MSA Education Product of the Year for our Hieroglyphic Stencil rulers. We are also working with The Royal British Columbia museum on their latest Egyptian exhibit to fulfill their request for custom products.

What is unique about your product or production technique or design or other aspect? What would the MSA Membership really want to know about you (this is your time to boast and brag so please, wax lyrical)?

I think with both companies, there is real effort to give our museum buyers quality merchandise. e.g. with Museum Reproductions, the jewelry is made with lead-free metals, natural stones, no stones are dyed and everything ships with a detailed provenance card with as much information about the piece as possible.

There is a lot of turmoil currently in the retail world. Can you tell us one exciting trend that you’ve noticed? Are you taking advantage of it?

The use of the internet and social media are streamlining and expanding a lot of our business. We find the bulk of our orders now are made on are website and buyers use our digital catalogues much more frequently.

There is a lot of turmoil currently in the retail world. Can you tell us one thing that keeps you up at night? What steps will you take in light of that?

Amazon is always a concern in the retail world. However, we feel the personal service, our attention to quality and detail and the ability to customize products to a museum’s collection is something extremely important for us to continue to offer.

What are some concrete goals for your next three years working with members of the Museum Store Association? How do you see MSA helping you achieve that?

I believe Shoptalk has always been an awesome tool and it helps us understand what buyers are looking for. In addition, MSA seems to be forging in a great new direction to develop more opportunities for its members including their vendor members. I would like to learn more about Product Pitch which is beginning on Fridays — and Museum Store Sunday is a fantastic way to highlight our industry. Overall, the MSA Board and staff are more open to new ideas and changes that will position our association for the future.

Have you ever attended an MSA Chapter meeting? Tell us about that experience.
I have attended two so far and, unfortunately, some personal things have prevented me from attending some recently. My goal for next year is to attend all of them.

What is the best vacation you’ve ever had?


The best vacation was Italy about three years ago.…we went to Florence, Venice and Pisa. It was a trip where everything went perfectly-hotels were great and the food was awesome..! I love to travel and really like to plan a trip ahead of time: to research unique hotels and restaurants and search the map for places that look interesting and then book it all! Venice was especially cool-we did a lot of the typical touristy things but there were definite highlights like the Guggenheim Museum and this remarkable dinner we had by the Rialto Bridge under a sky full of stars. We also went to Murano and in one glass gallery which was particularly beautiful, the owner was so welcoming. He told us all about his family, the history of his studio and their glass blowing. It was really memorable!

Do you have a hobby? Collection? Unusual talent?

I love photography and have been collecting Russell Wright dinnerware for years. It was designed in the 30’s and 40’s. I have a very unusual talent but it’s a secret!

It’s been so much fun doing this interview…Again, I love what I do and I’m so grateful to work with such great people around the industry. Thank you for the opportunity to tell you about myself.

Donald Burns has been a member of MSA for many years, and in 2016 he became MSA’s very first Sales Representative Member. Discoveries Egyptian Imports was the winner of the 2017 MSA Buyer’s Choice Award for Education and Games for their Wooden Stencil Ruler.


PRO-File: Institutional Member

September 11, 2017

Name: Patricia Sampson: A Volunteer with Passion  — who believes in Fate

Job Title: Manager of Retail Shop and Visual Merchandising

Institution: High Museum of Art

Location: Atlanta, GA

Interviewed by: Laura Murphy, Preservation Society of Newport County

What path brought you to your job?

I grew up in Harlem, NY. There I would escape to the Museum of the City of New York located on 5th Avenue.   Admission was free then, and I often found myself walking around there.  I was in awe of what I could learn about my city!  I majored in Fashion Merchandising at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. My degree brought me to Atlanta, GA  where  I found a job in the for-profit world in Birmingham with an independent retailer, Parisian.  At Parisian I began my buying career by purchasing swimwear, intimate apparel, ladies clothing lines, and menswear.  When Parisian was purchased by Sachs, I found myself out of a job.  My goal was to leave Birmingham and head back to Atlanta where I had family.  I applied at the High Museum, but did not hear back and pretty much forgot about it.  In the meantime, Sachs offered me a position, but I would have to remain in Birmingham.  That day I made the decision to decline the position.  Later that same day the High called and offered me the job!  This was the beginning of my belief in FATE…

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From Icon to Impact: Merchandise Sends a Message

June 12, 2017

By Maria Kwong

Being recognized by MSA for product development this year is indeed a great honor and I wanted to share our process with other members hoping to achieve future recognition. MSA not only provided me with access to tools and vendors that fit my very modest product development budget, it provided me with an environment where I could learn from my peers.

Being the director of a museum store with our particular mission statement–to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience—has always made product development…well, challenging. Contrary to what many vendors and buyers imagine, Japanese products are not what makes up our store. We are a museum that explores the Japanese American culture, history and community; past, present and future. In fact, during the early days of the museum store, the rule was not to buy any products that were perceived as “too Japanese”. This rule served two purposes: first, it put the emphasis on the hybrid culture of Japanese Americans; and secondly, since the museum was conceived as a community-supported organization in a historically ethnic area of Los Angeles, the museum did not want to appear to be an economic threat or competitor to the merchants and businesses in Little Tokyo.

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Art Supplies? Yes!

April 3, 2017

By Nancy Sanders

Selling art supplies might be a given for fine art museum shops, but all sorts of museum shops should consider adding this product category to their sales plan assortments. People of all ages can use some extra creativity in their lives, and activities that encourage drawing, painting and photography can fill an important need.

When I first started buying for the Gallery Shops’ children’s department in 2002, our store didn’t have a huge number of SKUs or art supply vendors. Our products could be found in mainstream stores, and we struggled to compete on retail pricing. In addition, I was pretty particular about what quality I expected. Children need good-quality supplies; otherwise, their frustration when markers lose ink too quickly or when pencil points break at the slightest pressure might be discouraging. And what about all of the young adults and adults who came into our galleries and left feeling inspired to create art—what did we offer them in the way of art supplies beyond student-grade media?

These were areas I addressed when I evaluated my options for business growth, and over the years, the category of art supplies has increased from 20 percent to 50 percent of our department’s overall sales. Here are some of my recommendations for how you can achieve similar growth.

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Woman successful hiking climbing silhouette in mountains, motivation and inspiration in beautiful sunset and ocean. Female hiker with arms up outstretched on mountain top looking at beautiful night sunset inspirational landscape.

4 Ways to Define Personal Success

March 28, 2016

Are you successful? Hopefully, you’re running a successful operation and you come to work every day with a smile on your face. But defining true personal success is often difficult.

You could be running a massively successful operation, while your personal life is crumbling all around you. Or, just the opposite may be true. Your personal life may be nothing but endless joy, and at the same time, you can barely keep the front door of your store open.

Life, both professional and personal, seems to be an endless balancing act. You often feel like a juggler, trying to keep a dozen balls in the air. It might work for a while, but it doesn’t work all the time. Read more

several donuts on a white background

Social Media Explained

February 8, 2016

A while back, I came across an image that went viral that explained social media using donuts. Naturally, the use of donuts caught my attention since donuts are at the top of my nutritional tree… and social media seemed kind of important, too.

As it turns out, the social media explanation, ala donuts, has been knocking around the Internet since 2013. It’s a simple, yet effective way to visualize the social media food chain. It’s easy to see why it caught the imagination of anyone who is trying to figure out a way to take advantage of all that social media has to offer – especially for businesses. I guess that’s why I keep a copy of these nine definitions pinned to the bulletin board near my desk.

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10 Ideas You Should Steal

January 25, 2016

In 1970, the King of the counterculture, Abbie Hoffman, wrote, Steal This Book. It was a guide to survival in time of change. It’s now 2016 and times are a changing. It’s time to steal some ideas.

Every industry has unique ways of doing business. Many of these ideas translate well to the retail business. So here are a few ideas that you can steal to help your store survive in the ever-changing world of noprofit retail. Read more


5 (or more) Reasons to Go Grey

December 14, 2015

Depending on what market you’re in, you may be finding that good employees are in short supply. As the economy heats up, the demand for retail-level employees is starting to create problems throughout all industries. To maintain your roster of employees, especially throughout the holiday season, you may have to get creative as you search for the newest member of your team.

Certainly, you can try all the usual avenues for finding new hires. Craigslist, the local want ads, the job board at your local college and referrals. But don’t forget that your best employee may be coming from a different direction. Read more


Where’s My Email?

December 7, 2015

As an avid museum- goer, I have to be on dozens of museum mailing lists. So where’s my e-mail?

With Thanksgiving a fading memory, we are now squarely into the holiday shopping season. And, it’s no secret that online sales are challenging brick and mortar stores for retail supremacy. A survey conducted by the National Retail Federation shows that more than 151 million people shopped either in a store or online. Online shopping even has gained an edge over in-store shopping, with the survey showing 103 million people shopped online, while 102 million people shopped in stores. Obviously, a big number of people are shopping in both places. Read more