CLUTE — There is a whole different world under the waves, and through the dedicated collection and research of Janey Cormier, that world has been brought to Brazoria County and put on full display.
Cormier, Brazosport Museum of Natural Science curator of malacology, is a lifelong collector. She spent several years traveling and gathering whatever seashells she could find. Starting in the 1960s when she found a rare shell, Cormier's passion for collecting shells was born.
"I lived in St. Croix for a while, I've gone to Honduras about three times and I used to dive in the Gulf (of Mexico)," she said during the museum's reopening Friday night. "I've collected everything in the case here except for maybe one or two of them. They're each marked with where they came from."
The case Cormier referred to sits just inside the entrance to the natural history museum and is filled with shells and models of the animals that would have lived in them. The models are handmade by Cormier from sculpting clay that she then painted to look lifelike.
About half of the shells and models had been in the museum before, but during the museum's closure because of the pandemic, some rearranging was done that brought the display front and center.
It also coordinated well with the museum's special display that features the Lightning Whelk, which is the Texas state shell. The whelk display — also assembled by Cormier — shows the life cycle of the large predatory snail and also features history on its adoption as a symbol of Texas itself.
"I'm just happy we can be all the way open again and sharing these items with the community," she said.
As part of The Center for the Arts and Sciences, the museum coordinated its open house with a special show from the Brazosport Planetarium, a performance of "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" put on by Center Stage and a new gallery exhibit by the Brazosport Art League.
"It's awesome that all of this could come together and it could be turned into a whole night for the family," said Summer Morgan, communications director for The Center. "We loosened our restrictions based on CDC guidance and our facilities committee met and decided that we could open things up, and we're really excited to be able to do that."
The community was also excited for the opportunity to have a fun night out, as evidenced by youngsters flitting between displays of seashells, dinosaurs, mammals and birds.
While the museum has been open for some time with limited capacity, it was a one-way track throughout the museum that was more difficult for eager young patrons to keep focus as they moved around instead of going straight to whatever caught their eye, Morgan said.
"We would see little boys who just wanted to look at the dinosaurs but they had to wait on their family until they got there, but now they can just rush to whatever they want to see," she said. "We're happy that we can open up like this again."
The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free but tickets are required and can be found at bcfas.org/brazosport-museum-of-natural-science.