Unfortunately, space constraints kept me from finishing my
discussion of Byne’s Disease in last month’s column.
You will remember that Byne’s Disease is a white efflorescence
resembling salt (see images) that can be found on shell objects (e.g.,
California clamshell money, wampum or cowrie shells) stored in an
My recommendation is to avoid this condition by storing these
items in a safe environment similar to those recommended for the
storage of other numismatic materials (i.e., archival quality, acid
In addition to being acid-free, the storage container should also
suit the size and weight of the shell.
Small polyethylene bags would suit a cowrie shell quite well,
while larger clam shells should be stored in a box that can provide
them with adequate support and protection.
If you have wampum in your collection, you might need to construct
a custom storage mount to properly support the object in the storage
box. Archival suppliers offer a wide variety of storage boxes.
Readers interested in learning more about Byne’s Disease are
directed to two online resources: (1) the National Park Service
Conserve O Gram “Byne’s ‘Disease’: How to Recognize, Handle and Store
Affected Shells and Related Collections” (Number 11/15, August 2008)
written by Sally Shelton, conservator of natural history collections
and (2) Conchologists of America (www.conchologistsofamerica.org/articles/y2002/0209_callomon.asp),
“Byne’s Disease — Questions and Answers” written by Paul Callomon,
Collections Manager, Department of Malacology, Academy of Natural
For those looking for a more technical source, there’s the
scholarly article “The Deterioration of Mollusca Collections:
Identification of Efflorescence” written by Norman Tennent and Thomas
Baird, published in Studies in Conservation, Volume 30 (2), 1985:
Publisher?publisherCode=iich) (access to this article is limited
to subscribing institutions).
Acid-free boxes and tissue are available from archival houses such
as: Carr McLean (online at www.carrmclean.ca), Gaylord
Brothers (www.gaylord.com) or
University Products Inc. (www.universityproducts.com).
Polystyrene storage boxes are available from: Althor Products (www.althor.com), Durphy Packaging Co.
Ward’s Natural Science Establishment Inc. (www.wardsci.com).
Susan L. Maltby, Toronto, is a private conservation consultant,
with an interest in numismatic preservation.