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A Place of Awe and Inspiration

Harriet Wood, 22 December 2016

Opening up our collections to the public is a real treat for any curator. We are almost always welcomed with gasps of delight as they enter the treasure trove that is the shell collection at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. It is brimming with shells of beauty with stories to tell, century old books with hand painted pictures and letters from shell-lovers of the past. It is undoubtedly a place of inspiration and reminiscence and so perhaps it is not surprising that creative writing groups enjoy using it as their muse.

Looking inside shells - shell sections

Looking inside shells - shell sections

I recently had the pleasure of showing one such group around. A member had already read and loved Helen Scales’ beautiful book Spirals in Time and so I brought out some of her stories with the shells on show for the writers to witness first hand.

Spirals in Time by Helen Scales

These tales of molluscs naturally unfold when going through the vast diversity of the group - where they live, how they live, what they eat – from metal armoured snails at the bottom of the Indian Ocean to ghost slugs rasping earthworms to a spaghetti-like death. The stories are endless and an hour simply isn’t enough! As well as inspiring them the shells evoked memories for the writers too, stories of happy hours spent eating cockles by the sea and of school days where each pupil had a tin of shells to use for counting.

Cephalopods - Octopus, Squid, Cuttlefish and Nautilus

Sea Snails

Sea Slugs

It seemed only right that the pieces the group produced should be shared with fellow creatives out there and so with their permission they are published here. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

A page from Melvill's hand-drawn register


Harriet Wood

Curator: Invertebrate Biodiversity (Mollusca)
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