Google Arts & Culture: the Montagu shell collection
24 November 2020
RAMM’s Montagu shell collection can now be explored on the Google Arts & Culture app.
RAMM is home to the Montagu shell collection – the most intact and scientifically important collection of early 19th century British shells found anywhere in the UK. In January of this year the collection received Designation status from Arts Council England, identifying it as an outstanding collection.
The Montagu shell collection was given to RAMM over 140 years ago. It includes British land, fresh water and marine shells collected by Colonel George Montagu, and has many beautiful examples; some with spines and ridges, others with intricate patterns or mother of pearl hidden within. The Natural History Museum in London also holds a small number of Montagu’s shells.
Originally a soldier, Montagu moved to Devon where he devoted himself to researching and publishing on a range of animals, notably birds and molluscs (he was the first person to scientifically describe the bottlenose dolphin). His mistress Eliza D’Orville illustrated his publications, and it was their son, Henry D’Orville, who donated the shell collection to RAMM on 21 November 1874.
The collection was designated by Arts Council England due to its taxonomic importance. There are 120 ‘type specimens’ (species considered new to science) of mollusc represented in the collection at RAMM. These ‘type specimens’ are in demand internationally by those studying the taxonomy of molluscs across Europe.
Google Arts and Culture
You can now view the Montagu shell collection on Google Arts & Culture; a website and app that features content from over 2000 leading museums and archives who have partnered with the Google Cultural Institute. You can examine microscope photography of tiny shells, learn more about Montagu’s important work Testacea Britannica, and discover fascinating type specimens.