PEET - Bivalves Affiliated Project: Pearls

Joint preparation of the major exhibition, Pearls, by the PIs with two other curators from AMNH and FMNH required investigations into some of the intriguing economic aspects surrounding marine and freshwater bivalves. Using historical documents and data gathered from exhibit-related research travel in Japan, Tahiti, Australia, and China, the process by which marine and freshwater pearls are formed (naturally and through culture) was elucidated. The results were incorporated into the exhibit that opened at AMNH in New York in October 2001, continued on to FMNH in Chicago in June 2002 through Paris in 2008 (other venues included Atlanta, Houston, Midland/Michigan, Toronto, Milwaukee, Tokyo, Sydney, and Abu Dhabi). More detailed information and a comprehensive new look (biologically, culturally, and economically) at pearls and pearl-producing bivalves are included in the book Pearls: A Natural History published in 2001 by Harry N. Abrams Company (in conjunction with AMNH and FMNH). This work has exposed scientists to the economic and cultural aspects of pearls, and non-scientists to the biology and ecology of bivalves and other mollusks. The background of the PIs in malacology and bivalve anatomy contributed significantly to our understanding of this subject. In addition to numerous public lectures by the PIs to accompany the exhibit and book, educational programs for lay-persons, teachers, and students of all ages included basic biology of marine and freshwater bivalves. Presentations on bivalves have also been given at a number of university settings, to both faculty and students of varying status. The many unsolved systematic problems in the pearl oyster family Pteriidae, elucidated during exhibit development, lead to the dissertation project now pursued by PEET-graduate student Ilya Temkin.

Publications: Landman, N. H., P. M. Mikkelsen, R. Bieler, and B. Bronson. 2001. Pearls: A Natural History. Harry N. Abrams Inc., New York, 232 pp., ISBN: 0810944952.

Landman, N. H., P. M. Mikkelsen, R. Bieler, and B. Bronson. 2001. Columbus’s pearls. Natural History, 110(8): 12-14.

Presentations: Mikkelsen, P. M. 2001. Searching for Pearls – the research behind an upcoming exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. Mid-Atlantic Malacologists meeting, Delaware Museum of Natural History, 10 March 2001.

Mikkelsen, P. M., D. Harvey, and S. Siskel. 2002. Creating Pearls: combining zoology, gemology, art and anthropology in a comprehensive exhibit. National Science Collections Alliance, Washington, DC, 8 June 2002.