Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Museum reopens to public

CAMDEN, Tenn. — The Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Museum has been closed for over a month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Thursday morning, employees were hard at work setting up displays and getting ready to finally reopen their doors.

“Today is our first day of opening, so we’re real proud. We’ve got a couple of staff members here, and we’re letting them demonstrate and show some of the beautiful wares we grow in Birdsong Creek,” said museum owner Bob Keast.

The past few years have gone anything but planned for the museum. They had a fire in 2016 and have even dealt with other problems.

“We’ve been through floods, tornadoes, the fire, COVID-19. All kinds of despair over the years. Our resilience is just: keep on going,” Keast said.

The museum is the only freshwater pearl farm left in the U.S., and they’ve got plenty left to sell.

A quick look into Birdsong Creek makes it seem like a pile of PVC pipe in the water, but it’s actually the farm. That is where they say thousands of mussel shells are producing the pearls that they proudly display in their museum.

“It takes around 10 to 15 years to grow a pearl. It’s not something you put in the water today and bring out tomorrow,” Keast said.

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The museum and farm offers tours around the site explaining their process and the full history of how they came to be one of the most unique sites in West Tennessee.

They’re planning on restarting the tours soon.

“We’re here to stay. After 60 years, we’re celebrating a milestone,” Keast said.

The museum will be open seven days a week for the foreseeable future.

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