C o m m o n w e a l t h
A s s o c i a t i o n o f
M u s e u m s
CAM Bulletin Number 2 - Feb. 1996
CAM's New Logo
A new logo and symbol has been selected for CAM by the President in consultation with several Council members. It will be seen on the letterhead and cards and the masthead for the Bulletin.
The symbol chosen is the cowrie shell. Cowries have been used in several important ways and in many diverse areas of the world, both where they occur naturally and where they have been transported. Cowries occur naturally in the band between 40°S and 40°N around the world. "Money cowries" Cypraea moneta and C. Annulus were most frequently involved as money and in divination but other varieties came into use for decoration, status symbols and charms.
Cowries have been used as decoration and ornament for thousands of years. As money, they have been predominant during certain periods in Asia (China, India, Indo China), Africa (Central, East and West) and the Pacific and in North America where they were used for barter. The earliest indications of this use date from about 1000 B.C. in China, 100 B.C. in India and the tenth century A.D. in Africa. They continued as money as late as the 19th century in India and the 20th Century in parts of Africa and the Pacific.
Cowries have been prominent in a number of societies around the world as symbols of wealth and status and to indicate success as warriors. In a wide variety of cultures, cowries have been associated with aspects of the life cycle, birth and fertility, marriage, as charms to protect and as instruments of divination, for example, among the Yoruba of Nigeria. In many of these cases, use is restricted to certain individuals or families, sometimes to males only, and in certain prescribed ways.
The Cowrie is a true example of "Common Wealth" which is shared across our Commonwealth. It is an object of value and an object of meaning. CAM has selected this symbol to represent our common heritage and to represent a continuum from past to future as we work to contribute "something of value" to our international museum community.