Matheson presents “The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans”

Press release from the Matheson History Museum

The Matheson History Museum welcomes back journalist and author Cynthia Barnett on Sunday, December 5, to discuss her newest book The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans. A book signing will follow her presentation. Proceeds from the sale of books and seashell cards will benefit Gainesville’s Environmental Ambassadors program.

Sunday, December 5, 2021
4pm – Free In-Person and Virtual Program

For the safety of staff and attendees, capacity will be limited to 75 people and masks are required. Admission is free but registration is required: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-sound-of-the-sea-tickets-199228175837. A virtual option via Zoom is available for those who cannot attend in person: https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_8d9t1OYfQxuOWWzK8QQkFw

The human fascination with seashells is primal. Archeological evidence suggests that Neanderthals collected cockle shells on the coast of what is modern Spain, perhaps giving preference to those they found beautiful. Native Floridians built “great cities of shell” on the southern coasts, later carted off for road fill. In the 1950s, the nation burned with shell-collecting fever only a Florida vacation could cure.

In a special program for Gainesville, award-winning environmental author Cynthia Barnett will introduce the long, rich, and surprisingly profound relationship between humans and seashells. Traveling from Florida to the Bahamas to the Maldives, West Africa, and beyond, Barnett explores the ancient history of shells as global currency, their use as religious and luxury objects, and the remarkable marine mollusks that make them. For eons, shells and their makers have reflected humanity’s shifting attitudes toward and precarious place in the natural world.

While shells reveal how humans have altered the climate and the sea—down to its very chemistry—they are also sentinels of hope for alternative energy and other solutions that lie beneath the waves. With her engaging account of an aspect of nature and culture long hidden in plain sight, Barnett illuminates the beauty and wonder of seashells as well as the human ingenuity and scientific solutions they represent for our warming world.

Cynthia Barnett

Cynthia Barnett is an award-winning environmental journalist who has reported on water and climate worldwide. Her writing has appeared in National Geographic, the Atlantic, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications. She is the author of four books including Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, which was longlisted for the National Book Award and her latest, The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans. Ms. Barnett also serves as Environmental Journalist in Residence at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She lives with her family in Gainesville.

This program is sponsored in part by Visit Gainesville/Alachua County, FL and by the Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council of the Arts and Culture, and the State of Florida.