Mollusca collection

The mollusca collection at the National Museum Wales in Cardiff, includes the following important collections: 

  • Melvill-Tomlin Collection (the combined collections of James Cosmo Melvill and John R le B Tomlin) - this forms the base of the dry collection and was donated in the 1950s
  • Spirit Mollusc Collection - including the Hoyle Cephalopod Collection

The F Fedden Collection is another historical mollusca collection.


Number of specimens:

180,000-200,000 lots

Timespan covered:
  • The Melvill-Tomlin Collection dates from the 1860s to the 1950s.
  • The Hoyle Cephalopod Collection is an important historic collection that includes some HMS Challenger material (1872-76). 
  • The remaining Spirit Mollusc Collection specimens are mostly from the 1960s onwards.
Geographical locations covered:

The Melvill-Tomlin Collection specimens were collected globally.

Curation and collection management


Most specimens are dry, some wet:

  • The Melvill-Tomlin Collection includes over 80,000 lots of dry shells.
  • The Spirit Mollusc Collection is stored in alcohol.
Database information:

60-70% of the collection is databased on Filemaker online, including:

  • 20,000 bivalves
  • 40,000 pulmonates (terrestrial gastropods)
  • 60,000 prosobranchs

The best use of the database is for finding historic (pre-1900) material. Searches can also be done using expedition name – for example there are 700 bivalves from expeditions, of which 52 are from HMS Challenger.

Spreadsheets are available for:

Contact information

National Museum Wales personnel interviewed:

  • Trevor Bailey - Curator, Palaeontology
  • Harriet Wood - Collections Manager, Mollusca
  • Andy Mackie - Researcher, Non-molluscan Marine Invertebrates
  • Teresa Darbyshire - Curator, Non-molluscan Invertebrates
  • Julian Carter - Conservation Officer


Excel files

If you are unable to open the Excel file please contact the Curator to request the document in another format.