The Cape Fear Museum to host the largest gathering of shell collections is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

The N.C. Shell Show at Cape Fear Museum will feature shells from across the world such as this sea cockleshell. Photo courtesy Cape Fear Museum.
The N.C. Shell Show at Cape Fear Museum will feature shells from across the world such as this sea cockleshell. Photo courtesy Cape Fear Museum.

For some visitors to the coast, collecting shells comes as a momentary stop on a train of thought during a walk on the shoreline—picking up a scotch bonnet to encapsulate some form of beach laden nostalgia during their time away from the sand. For others it’s not just a scotch bonnet, it’s Semicassis granulatum, a rare species of sea snail or marine gastropod mollusk in the sub family Cassinae, and also the official state shell of North Carolina.

However, during the North Carolina Shell Show — now in its 40th year — it’s not about the extent of your interest, but instead finding a place in between those two parties and seeing the wonders of the shell world at its best with some of the most rare shells in the world.

The North Carolina Shell Club and The Cape Fear Museum will play host to the largest gathering of shell collections in North Carolina on Saturday, September 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, September 20 from 1 to 5 p.m. The show will feature hundreds of seashells – remnants of bivalves and gastropods alike – collected far and wide by club members and other exhibitors with participants from Pennsylvania to Florida installing museum-quality displays.

“I know very few people who walk on the beach and notice a shell and don’t pick it up,” says John Timmerman Chairman of the North Carolina Shell Show for the Cape Fear Museum. “We’ll have the auditorium filled with gorgeous displays, with over 60 exhibitors that come in from across the country to sell and showcase shells they’ve gathered from across the world.”

The general public is encouraged to attend and learn about various aspects of shells and shelling. Shell club members will be on hand throughout the weekend to answer questions along with participating in a donation program, which allows attendees to take home a few shells from the show at no cost.

This year’s show will also feature an exhibit by Timmerman introducing the unfamiliar shell collector to the science behind the building of a shell, how to identify shells, writing labels and how to most effectively tell their story.

According to Timmerman it’s this detailed process that’s allowed the shell show to exist for its 40-year run.

“We’re dependent on its exhibitors, or ‘Citizen Scientists’, who have collected shells, collaborated with one another, curated exhibits and work directly with the public. This collaboration creates a community founded on solid information since museums and universities seldom have the staff or other resources to conduct the detailed study of shells and the mollusks that produce them,” said Timmerman. “Citizen Scientists go a long way to filling that gap and recording where the shell came from is of the utmost importance.”

The 2015 North Carolina Shell Show is free for members or with museum admission. For more information, call 910.798.4368. or visit the museum’s website here.

James Mieczkowski is a news reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at On Twitter: @mieczkowskiPCD