American Museum of Natural History

Practice Area


American Museum of Natural History

Project Vision

In this comprehensive exhibition, natural specimens paired with cultural objects offer visitors a global view of the many aspects of pearls, the mollusks that produce them, and the cultures that have long prized them. Circular alcoves, grouped around a central core, each explore a particular theme, such as marine pearls or pearls in history. Visitors can move from the center in any direction to build information, layer by layer, like the form of a pearl itself.

The introductory graphic panel consists of two sandwiched sheets of Plexiglas filled with thousands of artificial pearls, with a bold ring of light overlapping the exhibition title suggesting the shape of a pearl. Throughout the exhibition, explanatory labels, printed in white, stand out against the dark walls surrounding the alcoves. Titles appear in Scala sans and text in easily read John Baskerville; the use of Amazone script for subtitles adds elegance.

Videos and computer interactives help communicate the exhibition’s messages. A video installation of pearl divers ascending and descending underwater projects onto ceiling-to-floor scrims near the entrance and sets an elegant tone.

The exhibition has rated high praise from visitors for both its visual appeal and its success in explaining an often-misunderstood subject. With its final display of pearls in a rainbow of colors, Pearls also dispels the common misconception that all pearls are spherical and white.

Project Details
I wanted to read every word and examine each artifact presented. The inherent luminosity of pearls is shown off to best advantage in the dark, jewel box-like setting.
Juror 1
The contrast of the perfect pearl-white detailing and typography to the rounded black backgrounds lit by a string of pearl-looking lights was as elegant as the subject.
Juror 2
I appreciated knowing the message that visitors walk away with – that's one real definition of a successful exhibit
Juror 3
Classic and elegant, reflective of the pearl itself.
Juror 4
Design Team

David Harvey, Melissa Posen (Principals in Charge), Joel Sweimler, Ellen Giusti, David Clinard, Tim Nissen, Gerhard Schlanzky, Lauri Halderman, Sasha Nemecek, Margaret Cooper, Zoe Rosenfeld, Stephanie Reyer, Catharine Weese, Shani Tow, David Cabianca, Patrick Bell, Frank Rasor, Geralyn Abinader, Sarah Galloway, Mindy Weisberger, Molly Lenore, Frederico Bertagnoli, Min Hyung Lee, Richard Guy, Dee Dixon, Joey Stein

Design Firm

American Museum of Natural History


Wallach Glass Studio