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Spineless Wonders: Rising From the Deep
Bishop Museum exhibition combines art and science
to reveal the wonders of marine invertebrates
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi–Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum presents a new exhibition that gives visitors a rare glimpse into the undersea world of marine invertebrates through both an artistic and scientific lens. “Spineless Wonders: Rising From the Deep” will allow guests to explore stunning images of marine invertebrates by acclaimed nature photographer Susan Middleton, who specializes in the portraiture of rare and endangered species. Alongside the photos, guests will also encounter an array of marine invertebrates from the museum’s collections and discover how Bishop Museum’s collections and research are central to the exploration of our Pacific ocean. The exhibit will be on display in the Joseph M. Long Gallery from Sept. 21, 2019–March 29, 2020.
Free from the constraints of having a spine and suspended in a world less influenced by the effects of gravity than on land, marine invertebrates have evolved over millions of years into a vast array of spectacular forms and shapes. “Spineless Wonders” introduces visitors to these extraordinary creatures by presenting cutting-edge research being done by Bishop Museum and its collaborators in the ocean’s mysterious mesophotic coral ecosystems (also known as the “Twilight Zone”). A highlight of the exhibit will be specimens from the museum’s extensive collections of marine invertebrates from the vast Pacific region.
“Spineless Wonders” will tell stories of scientists who have plumbed the depths to explore the unknown and how Bishop Museum has served as a home base for these explorers. For example, attendees will learn about Mary Eleanor King, the adventurous malacologist who purchased a Coast Guard cutter and had it outfitted for research expeditions. Her seven expeditions resulted in the discovery of rare and unknown shells now housed in Bishop Museum and contributed to the burgeoning knowledge of marine fauna of the Central and Western Pacific.
Attendees will also learn how Bishop Museum divers, in a unique partnership of man and machine, used rebreather technology and the advantages of manned and unmanned submersibles to explore Hawai‘i’s mesophotic coral ecosystems at depths of 100–500 feet. During this unprecedented 10-year study, scientists found that deep coral reefs have twice as many species that are unique to Hawai‘i than their shallow-water counterparts, and discovered the largest unbroken coral ecosystem of its kind recorded to date, extending more than three square miles!
Revealing knowledge in ways that can be absorbed both intellectually and viscerally, the exhibition will present portraits of marine invertebrates from photographer Susan Middleton, whose photographs capture these sometimes otherworldly creatures in a beautiful and ethereal way. “I’m excited to be presenting my portraits of marine invertebrates at Bishop Museum, where the nexus of art and science can be so fully and beautifully realized,” said Middleton. “For the first time, these photographs will be shown alongside fascinating specimens of these same marine invertebrates from Bishop Museum’s research collections and will be supported by insightful commentary about the critical importance of this realm of life to our own existence and a peek into the cutting-edge field research to explore and better understand it.”
More than 98 percent of known animal species in the ocean are invertebrates and, while they are the foundation for all of life on earth, they are relatively unknown. “Spineless Wonders” at Bishop Museum will offer an unprecedented look into the wonder and importance of marine invertebrates and their ocean environment.
“Spineless Wonders: Rising From the Deep” is generously supported by the John Chin Young Foundation.
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