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Federal Eye
Posted at 09:00 AM ET, 06/08/2011

Smithsonian’s ‘Made in America' gift shop opens

These presidential busts, made in China, won't be sold in the new gift shop. (Bill O'Leary - WASHINGTON POST)
A gift shop selling only items designed and made in the U.S. opens today on the third floor of the National Museum of American History, fulfilling the wishes of lawmakers who insisted that the taxpayer-funded museum should do its part to promote American businesses.

The experiment may mean higher prices for tourists but could pave the way for similar “Buy American” efforts at other Smithsonian shops.

As The Federal Eye reported in April, the call for change began when Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), a big history museum fan, went shopping there last year for Christmas gifts for his granddaughters. He was outraged to discover that many items, including presidential busts, had been made in China.

Under pressure from Sanders and others, museum officials agreed to convert the tiny shop. Two other stores on the first and second floors are not affected.

In order to meet the new mandate, officials said the shop will no longer sell popular teddy bears in camouflage jackets, certain posters and books and t-shirts. Instead, it will sell merchandise focused mostly on the insignia of the branches of the U.S. military, including ornaments, patches and tankards with military division logos.

It will also sell a new customized Made in America mug that will sell for $20; similar mugs sell for $10 to $12 in other Smithsonian stores.

Amid the changes, Sanders plans to inspect the store today.

“They are making some progress in getting American vendors to start selling to the Smithsonian,” Sanders told ABC News on Tuesday. “We’ve got a lot more work ahead of us, but I think we are making progress.”

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