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Shell Museum to build edible mollusk exhibit

By Staff | Oct 16, 2009

Scallops, clams and oysters tends to make many think about dinner.

But did you know many of these tasty gems from the sea have a long history within our human culture?

Which mollusks are eaten and where and by whom is all fodder for a new interactive exhibit at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum.

Dr. Jos H. Leal, Director/Curator of The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum said that the Museum was awarded a “Culture Builds Florida” grant by State of Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs. The grant will match private donations ear marked for developing the new exhibit,

“It’s great to have something new,” Leal said. “We’re lucky we’re getting that grant.”

An exhibit on edible mollusks was part of the original Shell Museum exhibit plan. Late in 2008, the Museum board decided to move forward with fund-raising for the new exhibit. At the time of the board meeting in March 2009 the Museum had raised $30,000. A grant proposal requesting matching funds for design and fabrication of the exhibit, titled “MMM…Mollusks,” made the final cut in September 2009. The exhibit will explore uses of mollusks as food across human cultures. The grant is part of the highly competitive “Culture Builds Florida” cycle of the State of Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs. The Museum will be awarded the requested $25,000 to match donations made by Museum members James Hartman, Harry G. Lee, and Jack Lightbourn. Synergy Design Group of Tallahassee, Florida, is responsible for the design and fabrication. The design will be completed by early 2010 with fabrication expected by June 2010.

For millennia, people have savored the unique flavors and textures of mollusks. At the heart of many local cuisines throughout the world, mollusks are nutritious and delicious, and our enjoyment of them depends on a healthy environment. Mollusks have been an important food source for many different cultures around the world at least since the appearance of modern man.

“I think it will be interesting to people,” Leal said. “We have a very good design.”

Leal said that people will be surprised about some tasty mollusks that they may never heard of such as ship worms – clams found in the south Pacific that burrow into the hull of a ship.

This newest addition to the Great Hall of Shells will build on the institution’s mission, educating visitors about mollusks using local, global, and historical perspectives.

As the visitor enters the Great Hall of Shells, the new exhibit will appear to the left, across from existing exhibits on mollusks around the world. MMMMollusks! will engage the visitor with a visual buffet of images and objects from all over the world, depicting local, global, and historical uses of mollusks as food. Light treatments will provide appropriate lighting for evening events, with adjustable spotlight fixtures concealed by a soffit. Authentic objects, including packaged foods such as dried squid and canned clams, and touchable food replicas, such as raw oysters and tako-yaki, will give the visitor a sense of the variety of ways people prepare and enjoy edible mollusks. Brief text will explore the themes described above, explain the images and objects included in the exhibit, and introduce a touch screen interactive that offers visitors the freedom to learn as much as they want.

A touch-screen interactive begins with a selection of mollusk varieties, such as octopus, clam, oyster, mussel, snail, and squid. Upon choosing a variety, the visitor is presented with a map showing selected regions of the world where people eat or have eaten that mollusk. When the visitor chooses a region, he or she will find a brief summary exploring one or more of the above themes, information on when and how to enjoy that mollusk, and recipes from the selected region. Information on where to find dishes locally may be included and the visitor may print recipes to try at home!

Check the Museum’s website for future project updates. www.shellmuseum.org

(A press report contributed to this story).