As government rules once again see face masks required at indoor museums, galleries and heritage sites until the new year, the reusable mask is becoming a must-have.

Seizing the opportunity, many gift shops have launched their own branded face masks as a quick win for those able to get them onto both physical and virtual shelves. 

As well as providing protection for the more forgetful visitors, they also allow the proudest regulars to show their support as they go about their day.

When hoping to entice visitors to quite literally put their money where their mouth is, a great design is vital. It can transform a face mask from a mandatory accessory to a conversation starter, fancy dress or a stocking-filler. 

And, as the end of the face mask era retreats further into the distance, museums might now be considering the launch of their own mask designs. 

To provide some inspiration, here are some of the most ingenious museum face masks from across the UK’s museum gift shops.

The RAF Museum mask
Oxygen mask - RAF Museum

1. The RAF oxygen mask – Royal Air Force Museum

Featuring a design modelled on the Second World War RAF Pilot’s ‘D type’ oxygen mask, this mask is perfect for visitors who want to play pilot for the day while remaining historically accurate.

The Royal Air Force Museum explains: “The D type oxygen mask was introduced in the 1930’s and was made of green Melton wool with a chamois leather lining. It was this type of mask that was worn by pilots and aircrew during the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940.”

Available at the RAF Museum Shop

'Deeds not words' mask - The Museum of London
'Deeds not words' mask - The Museum of London

2. ‘Deeds not words’ – The Museum of London

Use your mask as a placard with this design from The Museum of London. The design sports the “Deeds Not Words” motto, seen on placards, posters and pins and used by the Women’s Social and Political Union (W.S.P.U) to help secure the right for women to vote.

Available at The Museum of London Shop

History of Science Museum
History of Science Museum

3. E = mc2 – History of Science Museum

Possibly the most famous equation in history, and forever synonymous with its creator, this design from the History of Science Museum is inspired by Einstein’s well worn blackboard and lets its wearer show support for the museum while also hinting at their own superior intelligence.

Available via the Ashmolean online shop

Rosetta Stone mask - The British Museum
Rosetta Stone mask - The British Museum

4. The Rosetta Stone – The British Museum

While it’s always more difficult communicating through a mask, The British Museum’s design is inspired by its most famous linguistic exhibit. Inspired by the engravings on the Rosetta Stone, and exclusive to the British Museum, this design is perfect for regular visitors, linguists and polyglots alike.
Available via The British Museum online shop

Tank commander mask - The Tank Museum
Tank commander mask - The Tank Museum

5. Tank Commander headset – The Tank Museum

Visitors to The Tank Museum will have no doubt imagined themselves at the helm of the gigantic vehicles, and communicating with the rest of the squadron over the din of the engines is impossible with the appropriate microphone. The Tank Museum – winners of the Museum + Heritage Awards ‘Shop of the Year’ in 2021 – do not disappoint, with a mask replicating that necessary headgear.

Available via The Tank Museum online shop

Knight’s helmet mask - Historic Scotland

6. Knight’s helmet – Historic Scotland

No doubt inspired by the protection face masks provide to yourself and others, the knight’s helmet design from Historic Scotland simulates an added layer of protection from swords and arrows. Exclusive to Historic Scotland, this design throws back to the armour of Scotland’s past.

Available via the Historic Scotland online shop

Vagina mask
Vagina design mask - The Vagina Museum

7. Vagina mask – The Vagina Museum

One of three designs offered by the museum, this mask embodies The Vagina Museum’s unflinching attitude to anatomy. The museum says: “Just because you are covering your face doesn’t mean you have to cover your love of vulva!”.

Available via The Vagina Museum online shop

Freudian couch design
Freudian couch design - Freud Museum London

8. Freudian couch design – Freud Museum London

Freud would surely have something to say about the mask above! At first glance, this next mask seems to sport a straight-forward design, but the pattern is in fact based on the psychoanalysts famous Qashqa’i rug, which was draped over his patient’s couch. A design only true Frued fans would recognise.

Available via the Freud Museum online shop

Tube map mask - London Transport Museum
Tube map - London Transport Museum

9. Tube map – London Transport Museum

Featuring the iconic tube map design, London Transport Museum’s face mask will not only show your love for the museum and the tube, but could help tourists find their way around in a pinch. While no longer available, a special mention has to go to its moquette mask designs, reminiscent of the well-worn fabric designs which cover the tube’s seating.

Available via the London Transport Museum online shop

Children’s squirrel mask - TATE

10. Children’s squirrel mask – TATE

Designed exclusively for the TATE by children’s author and illustrator Alice Melvin, this designed based on a squirrel is for younger visitors, allowing them to play dress-up and celebrate British wildlife.

Available via the TATE online shop

Enter 'Shop of the Year' at the Museums + Heritage Awards 2022

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The Museums + Heritage Awards 2022 category, ‘Shop of the Year’ will look not only at profit but the entire retail operation during the period of eligibility, and will honour the leaders in our sector.

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