La. Malacological Society presents annual shell show and sale

Shell Shocked

“We like to share our hobby with people,” Louisiana Malacological Society member Rusty Williams says.

With that in mind, the Baton Rouge-based club will present its annual Shell Show this weekend.

“And there are some really interesting things to see,” Williams, of Slidell, says.

From shells so tiny a magnifying glass is a must, to shells the size of bathroom sinks, LMS members will be showcasing their collections at the two-day event at the Baton Rouge Garden Center. The club also will sell seashells it buys in bulk to help defray costs of the show.

The show also offers a children’s area, which entertains and educates those future collectors.

“Some members also have some of their own shells they bring to sell,” Williams explained. “These tend to be of better quality, a finer example of the shell from that particular species. They’ll have a data slip attached that tells exactly where it came from, how deep it was, what material it was found in, etc.”

Serious collectors take great pains and considerable time to catalog their collections, member Harriet Cole said.

Cole’s a veteran of the society, which draws members from throughout south Louisiana.

Around her home, one will notice shells on sideboards, coffee tables, and on the wall.

“That’s called a sailor’s valentine,” Cole said of the framed art piece hanging in her foyer. A step closer reveals to the eye that these are tiny seashells placed in mosaic patterns under glass. In the 1800s, sailors would bring the boxes home to their sweethearts, thus the name.

Cecil Bankston, of Baton Rouge, is also a club veteran, and like many of the others, stumbled upon the hobby on family vacations in Florida as a child, and still includes seashell hunting in his vacation itineraries.

“Our club has been on many shelling trips, they’ve been all over the world, many Pacific islands, Madagascar, South America, Australia, Borneo, Tahiti,” Bankston said.

“Now, this is not your typical vacation,” member Hugo Andricain said, triggering laughter from the others. “You stay on a hot beach, and you collect shells all day long.”

“It’s like treasure hunting. Anytime you can find a shell yourself, it’s like a treasure,” Bankston said.