Terrestrial and Aquatic
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences' mollusks collection is worldwide in scope, with emphasis on localities in the Eastern United States. The collection contains specimens from over 100 countries, and currently contains of over 1 million specimens. Specimens also represent collections acquired from foreign researchers, individual donors, and specimens from international expeditions. The collection contains dry and alcohol-preserved specimens. In addition, the collection contains an actively growing collection of ethanol preserved tissues for DNA studies.
The core of the holdings are collections acquired from state agencies (e.g. Wildlife Resources Commission), the Institutes of Marine Sciences (IMS), and a private collection from Herbert D. Athearn, Tennessee which contained over 23,000 lots of freshwater mollusks. Other specimens are accessory collections from the Museum’s expeditions that concentrated on other areas of investigation like China, Egypt, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
The Museum's mollusk unit's current research emphasis is on freshwater mollusks, especially freshwater bivalves. Collection composition is 83% freshwater species (mussels, fingernail clams and snails), 10% marine species and 7% terrestrial snails. Athearn's private collection was the largest privately held collection of freshwater mollusks in the country. The IMS collection includes Hugh Porter's collection of marine, brackish, and freshwater mollusks of North Carolina.