Taking life at a snail’s pace

Every week the musicians gather between the rows of snail shells, with their guitars, violins, banjos and other instruments behind them. They are ingenious and use props throughout the office to help with implementation, such as an old car with the mussel section inscribed as keyboard support.

It’s a weekly Irish jig live in the Clams Collection at the Carnegie Natural History Museum, and like most weeks they play for a randomly selected audience. The artists – MNHC employees from various departments of the museum who participate for fun – call it mussel music.

Tim Pierce is the violinist at these concerts. When he looks at his feet and plays music from memory, he feels particularly at ease – after all, they are playing in his office. If he doesn’t organize these concerts, Pierce – a 65-year-old married man with grey hair and yellow-brown trifocal glasses, who speaks softly – is a shell curator at the MNHC near Pitt. This task requires the maintenance and research of the museum’s collection of more than 1.3 million shells.

I must be some kind of librarian, Pierce. I want my collection to be accessible to researchers, so we need to catalogue it, make sure it’s accurate and put it online.

Students with free access to the museum can see Pierce walking around the museum halls, and if not, at TikTok, where he shares his knowledge of shells with more people than he ever thought. The CMNH created an account on a relatively new video-sharing platform to demonstrate its knowledge of snails, and its videos have gone viral on virtually every metric.

In one of the most popular videos Pierce, who wears a green shirt, makes an exciting joke: Barack Obama went to a costume party, and he drove his wife. The partygoer said… Welcome, Mr. President! How are you dressed? Barack Obama said I’m a snail! That’s Michelle on my back. This video has been watched more than 1.6 million times and 350,000 times.

This joke has Tim’s pun – politics, snails and – at least at the right time of year – seasonality, Pierce said. But his favorite wordplay with snails is something like this: You can’t buy snails at McDonald’s because burgers only sell fast food.

But the creation of TikToks is only a part-time hobby for him. His main task as a keeper of bivalve molluscs – the animal filum, which covers a wide range of species from squid to crustaceans and snails – takes up most of his time.

Although Pierce treats all the shells, his colleagues know him better than anyone as the type of snail that immediately catches your attention when you enter his office, which is actually a carefully organized storage area with more than 15 rows, each 25 feet long, high ceiling cabinets filled with more than 30 sliding shelves with hundreds of snail shells in each.

But a huge collection doesn’t shake him. He quickly wanders through the narrow corridors, takes out sample trays and discusses this or that shell in detail – for almost each of them he has his own story or joke. He makes gestures from a disorganized group of snail shells and repetitions: Look at her! You have a mussel tumor.'s-space.jpg

Hannah Heisler | frame photographer

This kind of snail organization had been part of Pierce’s life all along. He started collecting snails at the age of three in his hometown Honolulu. He took her to the doctor, who hated the nurses, but the doctor liked it, so he kept doing it. From there his career was sketched – in primary school he even started to identify snails.

I found a land slug, but I used a sea slug guide, Pierce said as he walked around my office. It is a land snail that I found, he says, by removing a very, very beautiful shell and describing the different characteristics that distinguish it from a sea snail. Anyway, I was pretty far away.

After travelling around the country for his graduation and bachelor studies, he finally settled in Pittsburgh, where he has worked at the Mennonite World Conference since 2002. But not only does he identify the slugs, he also examines them. His research focuses on the distribution of various land snails in Pennsylvania and their evolution over time. Scientists thought that Punctum minutissimum – literally a very small stain, due to its diameter of about 1 millimeter – had only been found in 13 counties in Pennsylvania, but since 2002 Pearce has been collecting pillow leaf samples with many of these snails in each of the 67 counties of the Commonwealth.

It seemed rare, but it’s the most common slug in Pennsylvania! Pierce said.

The search for snails where others have missed them is a common theme in Pierce’s research. If you’re not looking for them, snails are easy to miss. If you look at an old snail distribution map, it is possible that the creator forgot some of them when he went looking for living specimens in the area. Pierce says he sees them in some distribution maps with great variations over the past decades.

When we started here in 2001, there were many snails in Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia area, two [cities with] museums where people have studied snails for over 100 years, Pierce said. As you can see, snails are attracted to people who study them.

He himself has found hundreds of species throughout Pennsylvania and thus contributed to the scientific knowledge about the distribution of snails.

Snails are so unknown! Pierce exclaimed. I found – I thought there were thousands, but I actually counted, and there were only hundreds – new provincial registers [on snails].

But collecting snails is more of a hobby for him. Don’t tell my boss I get paid for what I like, he whispers. When asked whether he goes to work, you read: for snails – or for fun, he answers: What difference does it make?

One of my hidden goals is to make nudes as popular as football, Pierce said.'s-space.jpg

Hannah Heisler | frame photographer

And according to some indicators, he has been successful in this program. The museum’s TikTok account has received over a million ratings for its videos, an increase of 950,000 Steelers, thanks in large part to videos in which Pierce talks about his snail legs.

They started setting up a video, and bam! You’ve become very popular, Pierce.

Tim Evans, multimedia manager at the CMNH, and Erin Southerland, museum editor, both work with Pierce to promote his jokes online. They said the project started naturally when they realized how funny Pierce was.

Tim tells those jokes all the time. We’ve made other videos with Tim that are more informal, explaining the subject, and he sometimes slips into jokes, Evans said.

In other words: TikTok’s short video format was perfect for small bead bites. Mrs Southerland said she hoped this would lead to a concrete increase in museum visits.

Tim takes a look behind the scenes about once a month, and we hope to see more visitors at the reopening, Southherland said in an email.

But that’s not the point – it’s a place where you can show off the cool people who work in the museum, like jokes about Pierce snails or a botanist putting flowers on the canvas.

We really want TikTok to be the place where everyone can see that we are having fun, says Südherland.

He, too, has become a kind of farmer. In the video of the 14th. In February, an anonymous high school student used snail jokes to ask his date to prom. And the accountants recorded the video well.

Tim, you’re gonna be my valentine. Tim, I don’t have snail jokes up my sleeve, but I love you, somebody else said. I love you, TIM Happy Valebtins, said the third one.

TikToks’ popularity makes him happy, but supportive remarks make his day – and sometimes give him an idea for another joke.

People say they’d shoot a bullet for me, Pierce said. And that’s me: No! Take a bullet for me!claw up meaning,by degrees meaning,by and by phrase meaning,by and by meaning,by the by meaning in english,crept meaning in english dictionary,creeping meaning,claw out meaning

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