Posts Tagged ‘Sailors Valentines’

Sanibel Island is know for the many shells that wash up on the beaches. As you walk the beach you just can’t help yourself from bending down to pick up just one pretty shell. Pretty soon you see another then another. They call it the Sanibel stoop. The first time we came here I remember walking on the beach where there was hardly any sand but just tons and tons of sea shells. To this day we have several boxes filled with shells in our basement.

There is a shell museum on Sanibel to help educate you about shells and mollusks, the shell-makers. It turned out to be a very interesting experience. For the kids they had sheets picturing various shells and you needed to go around and find the shells. This was good because it got you through the entire museum and also you looked harder at the names of the many shells. When you found all your shells pictured, you came back and got some little prizes. The kids had a lot of fun doing this.

There was also a pool with several different shells in it. We started asking a few questions and pretty soon learned a lot about the various shells. One of the workers would take a few shells out of the water and let the children see the little creatures that made the shell their home. I know I will certainly look at the shells differently now. I even know the names of some of them.

As I read their brochure I found out that the Museum is listed in 1,000 Places To See Before You Die. So now I can check off another sight. I need to live a really long time to see all 1,000 places.

I thought the most beautiful exhibit was Sailors Valentines. I don’t remember ever seeing anything like this before. Sailors Valentines are a well-known shell art form developed in the early nineteenth century. They are glass covered shadow boxes, always octagonal in shape and contain many tiny seashells glued into geometric and floral patterns.


 Most boxes were hard wood and hinged so that pairs could be safely closed.


Contrary to the myth these boxes were not made by sailors to pass the time at sea. They were made by female residents of Barbados and other Caribbean ports for New England whalers to purchase and bring back to their loved ones.

When these islands ceased to be ports-of-call this shell art also disappeared by the the 20th century. Recently this craft has undergone a revival.



Read Full Post »