This photograph shows just a few of many specimens from Worcester City Museum’s shell collection. The shell collection as a whole comprises of some 15,000 examples of land, sea and freshwater shells, including some exotic examples from the Indian Ocean. Combined with other local specimens from Worcestershire, this forms one of the largest such collections in a regional museum.
Many people over the years have helped to make it the rich collection it is, one of which was Sir George Whitmore K.C.B., who presented his collection to the museum. Whitmore’s donation forms the largest part of the shell collection, and his name can be seen on one of the presentation boards at the top of the photo. Robert Gale of Malvern also contributed specimens that he collected on his voyages in the Southern Hemisphere in the 1840s and 1850s.
As can be seen in the photograph, the collection that exists today is mounted onto boards, with information about the name, provenance and collector written beside each specimen. This work was predominantly carried out by Mr George Reece, Museum Curator in the latter part of the 19th century. In more recent years Mr Adrian Norris, a Conchologist from Leeds Museum, painstakingly curated the collection, ensuring that the modern Latin names of each specimen were up to date. The mottled brown oval shell seen in the photograph, Cypraea Arabica, is more commonly known as an Arabian Cowry, a species of sea snail. It is widely found in shallow waters throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and is mainly active during the night.
The Natural History Collections are very important in the history of the City Art Gallery & Museum as their origins go back to the Museum of the Worcestershire Natural History Society in the 1830s and were the foundations of the museum collections we have today.
Today, the local material in the collection is valuable as it can be compared with biological records produced by the Worcestershire Biological Centre at the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust.