Ersatz Museum

The Ersatz Seashell Museum is a make believe “for profit museum” of glass seashells

made by Charles E. Friedman, Collector-Curator-Creator.



“Made for Shells”

“The madness for shells that took hold of European collectors from the 17th century  onward was the peculiar human passion for the exoskeleton of mollusks has been around since early humans first started picking up pretty objects. Shellfish were, of course, already familiar as food: some scientists argue that clams, mollusks, snails, and the like were critical the the brain development that made us human in the first place. But people also soon noticed their delicately sculpted and decorated shells. Anthropologists have identified beads made from seashells in North Africa and Israel at least 100,000 years ago as among the earliest known evidence of modern human culture.”

Since then various societies have used shells not just as ornaments, but aldso as blades, scrapersm oil lamps, currency, cookojng utensils, boat bailers, musical insturnmetns, and buttons amoung other things. Marine snails were the source of the precious purple dye, painstakingly collected one drop at a time that became the symbolic color of royalty. Shells may also have serced as models for the volute on the capitol of the Ionic column classical Greece and for Leonardo da Vinci;s desogn for a spiral staircase in a French chateau.”

“In fact shells inspired an entire French Art Movement: Rococo, a word blending the French Rocaille, referring the practice of covering walls with shells and rocks , and the Italian Barocco or Braoque. Architects and designers favored shell like curves and other intricate motifs.”

For many collectors of that era, shells were not jsut rare, but literally a gift from God. Such natural wonders “declare the skillful hand from which they come” and reveal “the excellent artisan of the Universe,” wrote one 18th century French connoisseur, the precious went let trap, a pale white spiral enclosed by slender vertical ribs proved to another collector that only God could have created such a work of such a work of art”

Excerpts and quotations from an article of the August 2009 “Smithsonian Magazine” -Richard Conniff