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Welcome to
The Limpetarium

Art-based research investigating the entangled relationship between humans, limpets and the environment over time




















Brief project summary

Hi, I am Helen Garbett a postgraduate research student based at the Centre for Island Creativity, Shetland, University of the Highlands and Islands, where I am studying for a PhD in Creative Practice.  

My art-based research is investigating the complex relationship between humans, limpets and the environment over time. I am collecting and bringing together all sorts of limpet shells, facts, histories and stories, using them to create a contemporary wunderkammer (wonder-room) or, as I like to call it, The Limpetarium.


The Limpetarium is a place of research as well as an artwork displaying all the limpet artefacts and knowledge I discover. By assembling all that is revealed about human/limpet/environment relationships throughout the project we may find that some new and interesting knowledge comes to light.













Purpose and background to the research

In 2018 I visited Skaill Farm archaeological dig on the West coast of Rousay, Orkney. An archaeologist working on site gave me a handful of limpet shells that had been unearthed from viking midden (rubbish mound) as a souvenir. This started my long-term interest in limpets; I investigated their shape and form through drawing and, becoming more and more curious I started researching via the internet and reading. This revealed a surprising amount of limpet related information and many potential lines of art-based inquiry. I began to wonder what others might know about limpets and our relationship with them through history, so I decided to invite a wide range of people to participate in my limpet research.


If you would like to get involved you can find out more here.

My research question

What will the creation of a contemporary wunderkammer or Limpetarium reveal about the entangled relationship between humans, limpets and the environment over time?


How am I working? 

My work is interdisciplinary, which means I do not have one main or dominant field of practice, instead I bring together and interconnect various artistic practices including drawing, painting, textiles, collection, assemblage, installation, video and participatory activities such as letter writing, social gatherings and conversation. Sometimes I juxtapose seemingly unrelated objects, text and recordings to see what this reveals.

I am visiting sites of limpet interest including for example beaches, archaeological digs, natural history museums, archives and shell grottos, meeting up and corresponding with people to collect all sorts of shells, facts, histories and stories from the earliest times through to the modern day.


I am interested in anything which helps tell the story of human/limpet/environment connections and their importance in the world, including my own lived experience.

You are invited to take part - find out more here

Research supervisors 

Professor Roxane Permar from UHI Shetland and The Centre for Island Creativity is the Director of Studies for my Masters in Research Degree. Dr Antonia Thomas from UHI Orkney and the Archaeology Institute is my second supervisor.


All images are ©Helen Garbett unless otherwise stated. 

The Human Limpet Project research map in development... no beginning, no end, intersectional boundaries, process driven drift whilst clinging on to the research question... 
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