Maui News

Unique Seashell Collection Digitized by UH

April 19, 2012, 9:31 AM HST
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Hawaiian Marine Shell Reference Collection, photo courtesy University of Hawaii.

By Wendy Osher

The University of Hawaiʻi Museum Consortium  completed digitization of a unique seashell collection.

The collection features more than 190 species of shells found throughout the Hawaiian islands and will help scientists and citizens alike identify shells of their own.

“This initiative is an excellent demonstration of how digital technologies can be applied to increase public access to university collections and to add-value to an underutilized reference collection,” said Dr. Michael Thomas of the UH Museum Consortium in a media statement.

The natural science specimen collection is housed in UH Mānoa’s College of Social Sciences Anthropology Department’s Archaeology Program.


“The collection is fairly comprehensive for much of the archeological shell midden material commonly found in the Hawaiian landscape,” said Dr. Thomas.


The project was compiled with the help of curators, students, community volunteers, and the University photographer.

University officials say the Anthropology Department’s Marine Shell Collection began decades ago as an avocational pursuit of Bertell E. Davis.

In 1985 Davis bequeathed the collection to his son, Bertell D. Davis, who was an archaeology graduate student in the department. The younger Davis who earned a PhD from UH Mānoa in 1990, further developed the collection as a reference and comparative resource for identifying shell midden from Hawaiian and Pacific archaeological sites.


University officials say the collection was donated to support undergraduate education through various courses of the Anthropology Department’s Archaeology program in 2005.

The University’s Virtual Museum was established in 2008, and offers a single web portal to various university Natural Science and Humanities collections.

There are also digital collection initiatives underway with the University’s Joseph F. Rock Herbarium, Insect Museum, and the Historic Clothing Museum.

Photos from the digital collection can be found at:

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