Shell Show Exhibit Tips

Sample Labels

by John Timmerman

Sample shell labels

There is no rule saying the popular name should be listed first and/or in bold as I have done here. I prefer it as the popular name is what speaks to the public who are most of our shell show visitors. Judges do not seem to care either way. However, judges do care that the Latin binomial part of the name on the label is correct including current classification, author/date and format. The popular name is pretty flexible. The Lettered Olive is fairly universally called just that. But in the second example I frequently hear the shell called “Moon Snail,” “Sharkeye Moonsnail,” “Southern Moon Snail” – any of which are correct.

Scientific names are always formatted the same in text body as well.

Popular names are always started with a capitalized letter as in a proper name.

New Times Roman font remains one of the preferable types for text and labeling. It converts to Italics well. Some fonts do not show much difference.

For the Lettered Olive below you will see that the binomial is always printed in italics. If printing in Italics is impossible, underlining the words is acceptable (that is the printer’s communication that a word is to be in Italics.) The Author’s name, Ravenel is followed by the date it was described/published. If another worker describes the same species at a later date as they are not aware it has already been described the first description and date take priority.

Lettered Olive

Oliva sayana Ravenel, 1834

In the next label for the shark eye the same format is evident from the previous example. However you will notice the addition of parenthesis around the author’s name and date. The parenthesis indicate that the description has been changed where another worker may have described it at a later date and subsequent workers showed that latter name to be synonymous to that which Say described here. With this particular shell it is still common to find it classified as Polinices duplicata in books, the previous classification before the species was assigned to Neverita. Changes such as this is what drive shell show exhibitors to madness at times as there are constant changes being made in classification and nomenclature so not only does one have to be sure the parenthesis are there they have to confirm the current name. Also be sure to get the spelling correct.

Note: Be aware of spell checker programs as they will sometimes automatically change the spelling of a word to something the program recognizes and you have to go back and override the function. For example “duplicata” used here always goes to “duplicate” when typed as the program does not recognize the scientific name and corrects it to one it does recognize.

Shark Eye

Neverita duplicata (Say, 1822)


The Exhibit

Never assume the viewer (or the judges) know what you are talking about. Outline it on your title board, but don’t get too lengthy or complicated. Introduce its purpose.

Pictures and maps are always helpful to show place if that is relevant. I always think to the National Geographic geography quizzes that the general population fails so miserably, not being able to find places on a world map like South Africa, Egypt or Iraq.

Pictures of where the shell(s) were found are always nice and or pictures of the living shells – if appropriate.

Group the shells according to class for example bivalves with bivalves, gastropods with gastropods.

Don’t overcrowd the exhibit. One of the greatest challenges I ever have in building an exhibit is what not to use or cannot use. It is easy to pick everything to begin with. It can be torture to determine what not to pick. It is better to have your display cases a little loose with the specimens than bunched up. A cluttered looking display is harder to view and the judges may miss important aspects of it.

On a different note I had a show where I needed to eliminate an entire case from an exhibit at the last second due to not enough space in the exhibit hall. The exhibit went on to earn the DuPont Trophy even though I was not hopeful for it succeeding due to the loss of 1/6 th of the content. This may not always be the case but look to what is redundant to the story such as duplicates of species or repeating a message.

Make sure everything is neat.

Backboards should be neatly arranged and clean. Labels should be clean and lined up square. Sand or other debris such as dust or pet fur must be removed from the display area. Mounting the labels to poster board will help them lay flat. Paper tends to curl no matter what you do to prevent it, which results in the exhibit looking quickly made with little thought.

The color of the fabric the shells are displayed on can enhance or compete with the shells. Brilliant royal red for example, tends to overpower shells. A gray with a hint of green will tend to make your red and brown shells look more vibrant without overpowering them. However green shells will not look as vibrant on this color. There is no perfect color but muted sand or gray tones are the best bet. Black works well but can be a nightmare to keep dust free as is shows everything that is not black.


Click Button to Return to Home Page