IF YOU WALK THROUGH the Discovery Seashell Museum too quickly, you might miss the googly-eyed puffer fish hanging from the ceiling and the taxidermied iguana hanging out on the counter. Shark teeth, jaws from prehistoric animals, and a hodge podge of shells, books, buoys, and hermit crabs, and Phillies memorabilia make up this unique place nestled mid-island.
“It opened in 1960. The Strange’s owned it and my great grandfather was really good friends with them and bought it from them in the ‘70s or ‘80s,” said Paul Urban.
Paul runs the Seashell Museum, 2721 Asbury Avenue, along with his dad, R.P. Urban.
“It’s a unique place where you can see a bunch of different shells. It’s not just shells though, it’s animals, fossils, prehistoric jaws, stuff like that. We started adding more things. We have hermit crabs. It’s a unique place where you might find something you like. It’s a gift shop too,” Paul said.
The Seashell Museum has merchandise indoors and outdoors. Years ago, their outdoor space was bigger.
“When my great grandfather passed away a couple of years ago this house [next door] was our inheritance. We built this house and had to redo the yard a bit, sacrifice it. We still have everything out here,” said Paul.
Their shells are shipped from North Carolina but come from around the world. The hermit crabs are sent from Florida. The shells used to come through work trips.
“My great grandfather and the Strange’s would go on trips and literally bring an extra suitcase and load it. All of those big shells in the case have been in there for so long,” Paul said.
Their array of buoys hanging from the wall have numbers on them for a reason.
“The numbers on them? They were actually used. There’s a number on them that correlates to someone’s traps,” said R.P.
Sea glass used to be an extremely popular item to purchase at the Seashell Museum.
“We used to have green, red, blue. They became so rare [to get]. We used to have bags of sea glass,” Paul said.
Paul lists currently popular items as the bags of seashells and big starfish.
The big jaw out back is not a shark’s jaw but a replica of a prehistoric creature’s jaws.
“It’s a replica of a Megalodon. A prehistoric great white shark. They existed about 20 million years ago. We have some of the real teeth in our fossil case. We sent 10-15 teeth away and they took all of the dimensions and built the scale of what it would be size wise. Size wise it’s an accurate representation. It’s been here for years. A lot of people love coming in and getting their picture taken with it,” said R.P.
Their display cases are full of shells and other artifacts brought to the Seashell Museum over the years, including arrowheads. Shells in their display cases have cards stating the year they were found as well as their location. Some of the shells are from as far away as Brazil and Indonesia.
Finding your own shells
Hearing the waves whoosh over the shells and sand as you sit nearby watching is priceless. Did a shell just catch your eye? Or was that sea glass rolling around in the white surf… Shell seeking is essential to a great beach day in Ocean City… but where do you look to find shells? Here are some tips to get you started.
Tides and the Moon
High tide brings waves that push treasures ashore. Low tide makes shells easier to spot. Hunting after the full moon also brings interesting finds.
Beaches vary like surfing spots. Different beaches have different shells. Some beaches have the best sea glass. Other beaches are perfect if you’re looking to decorate clam shells. Walk a few different beaches during your time here and note the results. Search near the bay too
Time and Weather
Morning shell hunts might yield different finds versus looking in the afternoon. Going out to search in the morning might bring you better finds before the beaches are raked. Storms bring in cool driftwood and other salty treasures.
Looking for shells is all about having fun and going with the flow. Somedays, you can’t find any good shells. Other days, you need a big beach bucket to carry your haul back to the house to wash off the sand. Once clean, you can use sea glass and shells for jewelry, loads of crafts, simply display it in a pretty dish, or try your hand at decoupaging the shells.
Find this story and more in our August magazine.