Did you know Leeds is home to one of the biggest shell collections?

Curator Rebecca Machin is pictured with a Helmet Shell.
Curator Rebecca Machin is pictured with a Helmet Shell.
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It is more than an hour’s drive away from the nearest seaside.

However, believe it or not, Leeds is home to one of the biggest and most important shell collections in the whole country.

Exhibition of shells at the Leeds Discovery Centre, Leeds..Curator Rebecca Machin is pictured with a Baler Shell at the Centre...SH1002127d..14th January 2015 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Exhibition of shells at the Leeds Discovery Centre, Leeds..Curator Rebecca Machin is pictured with a Baler Shell at the Centre...SH1002127d..14th January 2015 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Members of the public are being given the unique opportunity to get up close to some of the hundreds of thousands of intricate items at the Leeds Museum Discovery Centre.

The collection began around the early 1800s, and is made up of roughly half a million shells from land and sea species, extinct and present, across the world.

Some of the intricate shells are on display at Leeds City Museum, while the rest are kept at the discovery centre on Carlisle Road.

Rebecca Machin, who is the curator of natural science at the centre, said deciding what to display at the museum is not an easy task.

“It depends on the story we want to tell,” she said.

“We have a light exhibition coming up, so for that we will likely have the beautiful iridescent shells [these appear to have a rainbow colour in certain light].

“But all the shells have some sort of story. Baler shells, for example, were used to bail out water on boats.

“It is important that we have good examples of different species as so many are going or already have become extinct.”

Mrs Machin said her favourite shell is the xenophora.

“Bits of debris, like rocks and other shells, get stuck to the shell so it becomes disguised,” she said.

“It gives the creature camouflage protection from predators, because they don’t realise that animals are living under there.”

People will have the chance to see the collection and handle some of the shells at the Super Shells discovery event from today, from 10am until noon.

There will also be family craft activities and a tour of the discovery centre.

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