When you visit a museum, you might be so taken by an item that you'd love to actually own it.

Museums are feeling you. Many have robust licensing programs with design firms and manufacturers to reproduce patterns or use artifacts as inspiration for new designs.

Cultural institutions view these partnerships as a way to broaden their exposure and fund ongoing work. Home decorators appreciate the opportunity to incorporate items that are often imbued with historical or cultural provenance.

Ruth Shapiro, spokesman for New York's Museum of Modern Art, says licensing serves multiple purposes.

“It's a powerful way to extend MoMA's brand and educational mission, it enables us to engage with new audiences, and it generates an ongoing revenue stream that provides valuable funding for the museum,” she says. Profits go back into programming and exhibitions.

The Museum of New Mexico, composed of four institutions, including the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture and Museum of International Folk Art, has license arrangements with several home furnishings companies.

Last spring, Atlanta rug-maker Jaipur Living was inspired by the Museum of New Mexico's extensive Kuba cloth collection.

“These fantastic, graphically rich patterns were interpreted by our designers and then made into rugs using sustainable fibers,” says Jaipur President Asha Chaudhary.

Hickory Chair Furniture has licensing deals with the Museum of New Mexico and with Winterthur, the former Delaware home of Henry Francis DuPont that's now a museum of decorative arts. Hickory's collection includes the elegant Alexander sofa, adapted from a design found in a Thomas Sheraton book in the home's library.

“The true essence of the designs would be lacking without the insight gleaned from working directly with the museum,” said company spokesman Skip Rumley.