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Natural History

Natural History

Shells

This collection comprises around 22,000 specimens, mostly marine shells from the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions. We also have a fairly strong collection of British specimens and well-presented collections of US terrestrial and freshwater specimens.

Of particular note is the collection of Dr Elliott, a dentist from Tanworth-in-Arden. His collection of 3,900 shells and 28 notebooks was donated to the Herbert in 1975. The most interesting component of the collection is known as the ‘African collection'. This contains 140 species of shells stored in boxes constructed partly from playing cards and partly from order cards supplied on the Royal Mail Steam Ship 'African'. The ship, built in 1872 or 1873, was used on the Mail service between Southampton and Cape Town and was finally wrecked in the Red Sea on Ras Abu Madd en route to Jeddah on 15 February 1887. The order cards date from 1876 to 1878 and were used by the ship's crew or passengers to order alcoholic drinks on board the vessel. We do not know if Elliott was a passenger or crew member on the ship. The boxes are carefully labelled in copperplate handwriting and framed in red ink. Elliott also collected pearl button shells. This illustrates the process of button production by cutting circular holes through the mother-of-pearl layers of large Abalone and Top shells amongst others

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