Photo: Rachel Ormiston/Burke Museum
Photo: Rachel Ormiston/Burke Museum

Malacology Collection

The Malacology Collection at the Burke Museum houses more than 150,000 specimens, representing a broad diversity of modern molluscs collected from around the world.

Today, these specimens are available for study to researchers, artists, educators, students, and members of the general public.


Malacology Collections


Number of specimens in the collection


Species represented in the collection


Years since the collection started in 1865

Search the Collection

The Malacology Collection is currently being digitized and is available online.

Malacology Database

Collection Overview

The Burke Malacology Collection represents a remarkably diverse taxonomic range of molluscs: bivalves (clams, mussels, and oysters), gastropods (snails and slugs), cephalopods (nautiluses), polyplacophorans (chitons), and scaphopods (tusk shells). While extremely broad in geographical and ecological scope, the collection is best known for its Pacific focus.

The collection formed in the late 1800s. Over time, the collection has grown extensively via donations from both researchers and the general public. Many specimens have been generously donated by shell collectors associated with the Pacific Northwest Shell Club. Today, the collection is ranked as the most extensive and valuable shell collection in the Pacific Northwest.

Currently, the collection is composed primarily of dry shells, with only a small, albeit increasing, number of fluid-preserved specimens. Specimens are available for study by advance request.

The Phil and Sandra Nudelman Collection was generously donated to the Burke Museum in 2013. Dr. Nudelman, an avid shell collector, amassed a vast and valuable personal collection, representing more than 100,000 specimens. In addition to the thousands of species that have been accessioned for research purposes, the Nudelman Collection contains exquisite specimens that have been placed on exhibit in the New Burke – showcasing the beauty and biodiversity of molluscs.

Alan Kohn, Professor of Biology at the University of Washington, is world-renowned for his research on molluscs, including the famed Cone Snails. While serving as Adjunct Curator at the Burke Museum, Dr. Kohn contributed more than 3,500 specimens and countless hours of his expertise to the collection. The Kohn Collection spans three oceans, five continents, and six decades – representing a lifetime of collections and research of molluscs.

Trevor Kincaid, an early member of the Young Naturalists Society, went on to become a Professor of Biology at the University of Washington. His research collection, which was donated to the Burke Museum in the 1960s, contains the world’s most extensive collection of Frilled Dogwinkles (Nucella lamellosa). The Kincaid Collection has more than 6,500 historical specimens – capturing much of the shell variation of this species along the coast of the Northeast Pacific.

Questions & Answers

We’ve pulled together some common questions and answers related to the Burke Museum Malacology Collection. Do you have question that isn’t answered in the list below? Contact us.  

Burke Malacology accepts specimens for donation, especially those that are not well represented within the collection. We are interested in material with detailed collection event data (geographic locale, collection date, collector name, etc.). With few exceptions, specimens without detailed data are no longer accepted for acquisition.

Contact us for more information.

Burke Malacology lends specimens to qualified institutions for exhibition, education, or scholarly research. Specimens will not be loaned to individuals except under special circumstances and with the approval of the Burke Museum Executive Director.

Loan requests are considered on a case-by-case basis and approval is contingent upon such considerations as the structural stability of the specimens; security; exhibition or research conditions at the borrowing facility; insurance, transportation, length of exhibition or research, and requirements for courier service. 

Contact us for more information.

Access to the Malacology Collection is at the discretion of the collections manager. Requests for access are considered on an individual basis. Access may be restricted or denied (for example, information restriction imposed by donor stipulation).

Contact us for more information.

Burke Malacology is in the business of identifying molluscs, so please feel free to submit a specimen ID request if you have a mystery shell that needs a name!

In addition to the specimen itself (or photo), please provide any collection information (geographic location, habitat, or date) that may be relevant. We will do our very best to provide feedback.

Contact us for more information.

The Burke Museum retains the sole copyright for its holdings and all images depicting its holdings. Photographic images that are in the care of or are the property of the Burke Museum, or photographs, photocopies, or artistic renderings of collection items that are in the care of or are the property of the Burke Museum may not be used for commercial purposes without specific written permission. 

Contact us for more information.

We couldn’t do what we do without volunteers! Visit our Volunteer page for more information about Burke Museum volunteer opportunities and to view current openings.

Our Team

Meet the people within the Burke Museum Malacology team.

Learn More

Have a general inquiry?

Contact Us

Additional Resources

We've compiled several online resources from outside of the Burke Museum that may also be of interest.

a volunteer opens a drawer to the malacology collection and writes a label

Support Malacology

Your gift makes it possible! We couldn't do what we do without generous donor support for collections care, research and public outreach. 

Photo: Rachel Ormiston/Burke Museum
Photo: Rachel Ormiston/Burke Museum