Broome Museum’s famous McDaniel Shell Collection gets an overhaul
The world famous McDaniel Shell Collection has received an overhaul with dedicated Broome Historical Society and Museum staff working countless hours to re-identify and re-catalogue the vast shell collection.
The collection, curated by Phyllis McDaniel, has been a fixture in Broome since the 1950s, garnering worldwide acclaim and attracting the attention of Queen Elizabeth II who personally viewed the collection in 1963.
Born in 1889 in Melbourne, Ms McDaniel demonstrated a deep affinity for the sea, excelling in swimming and diving and amassing numerous trophies.
Her connection to the pearling industry deepened when she married Daniel McDaniel in 1914 after visiting her brother, who had already ventured into Broome’s pearling trade.
Ms McDaniel’s passion for shell collecting flourished in the Broome’s unique environment with its immense tides and diverse marine life.
Crew members from the family’s pearling luggers contributed shells from far-flung destinations, adding a global touch to the collection.
Now, the collection has recently undergone a meticulous re-evaluation by the Broome Historical Society and Museum.
According to Broome Historical Society and Museum administrator Kylie Jennings the collection had retained its original labelling since the 1970s, leading to numerous inaccuracies.
“This is the first time that it’s actually been studied, and the shells put into their proper families and given their proper scientific names, so we’re cataloguing and adding them to our database,” she said.
Broome Historical Society and Museum intern Jaimee Tilley has played a pivotal role in this extensive restoration effort, investing more than a month in re-identifying and cataloguing the 700-piece shell collection.
“It has been quite the task. A lot of the names have changed since they were initially catalogued, so I’ve basically had to start from scratch,” she said.
“A lot of it was going through and matching up the labels first, getting the old scientific name, trying to find the new scientific name and then labelling them all individually.
“I’ve got a heap of miscellaneous shells that I’m not too sure about all I think were incorrect which I’m slowly going through.
“I’ve spoken to other shell collectors and experts and I’m getting their kind of opinion on a few of the shells I’m not too sure about but the majority is done now.”
The Broome Historical Society and Museum hopes the overhaul will preserve the McDaniel Shell Collection’s historical value for years to come.
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