Pea Clams, genus Pisidium

Pea Clams Drawer

Hilary Ketchum, Newton Trust Fund Project Assistant at the Museum, writes:

From 2011 to 2012 I worked at the Museum on a short term contract as a catalogue data assistant. My job was to catalogue the museum’s collection of bivalve molluscs, making an online database that could be accessed by researchers worldwide.

To finish the project in one year we worked out that I would need to catalogue one drawer of shells per day, and for eight months I met this target without much difficulty. I really enjoyed my work. I got to handle some of the museum’s most beautiful and important specimens, and found out some fascinating stories about the people who had collected them.

Then one day I came across a drawer containing hundreds of glass tubes. Inside each were tens of minute browny-green shells. This was in stark contrast to the colourful sea-shells I had been cataloguing before. The shells in the tubes belonged to a kind of freshwater bivalve of the genus Pisidium (also known as pea clams). They had been collected by a former curator at the museum who was interested in their distribution in rivers and streams. He had published numerous papers on the subject and had collected them for many years. This single drawer of specimens took me not one day, but a whole month to catalogue.

Fortunately after that, again it was plain-sailing, and I finished cataloguing all 10,000 bivalve specimens as well as another 2000 other molluscs, including the cephalopods and chitons. The catalogue is now available through the museum’s website, and visitors to the museum can see a new display all about bivalves in the Upper Gallery.

Pill Clam

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