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Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum celebrates 15 years

By Staff | Nov 10, 2010

Public Relations Manager Kathleen Hoover and Director Dr. Jose Leal are pictured on the front stairs of the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum holding two of the Museum collection’s world record-holding shells, an Atlantic triton and a Lightning whelk. The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is celebrating 15 years on Nov. 20 with a Family Day full of presentations.

On Nov. 18, the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum will celebrate their 15th anniversary as one of the islands’ most beloved institutions.

“We are very excited and very happy that we were able to reach that milestone. A lot of things have changed in 15 years,” said Shell Museum Director Dr. Jose Leal. “We’re still operating within the same facilities we had in 1995, but the scope of the programs and the level of professionalism we have acquired in those 15 years makes me very proud, in addition to working with all the staff, boards and volunteers. We’ve grown from being just an attraction to being a professional museum.”

The Shell Museum is certainly a hall of wonders — teeming with aquatic curios, cultural artifacts and attractive displays — and according to the American Association of Museums, the Shell Museum is now an accredited institution and one of less than 800 of the United States’ 17,500 museums to achieve such a distinction.

“Accreditation is something that we always had in our sight and it was one of our goals since we opened. But it’s not about hanging a certificate on a wall or getting a rubber stamp of approval, it’s the road we traveled to get there. It’s like going to college and getting a diploma — the whole experience is what counts,” Dr. Leal said. “Nowhere else would the Shell Museum succeed except on Sanibel. We try to expand and enhance the experience people have while visiting the beaches and looking for shells. The quest for shells has always been the element of surprise and it’s a crucial part of the excitement of shelling. We take advantage of that and provide a little more background — the natural history, biology, the use of shells in human culture. Sanibel is the perfect place to do that.”

To celebrate their 15th anniversary, the Shell Museum will host Family Day on Saturday, Nov. 20.

A Shell Museum display devoted to one of the islands’ most coveted shells, the Junonia.

In addition to free admission to all Shell Museum guests, three guest speakers will present special programs in honor of the Museum’s milestone.

The first speaker will be acclaimed author Charles Sobczak, who will discuss the Museum’s first 15 years at 2 p.m.

At 3 p.m., storyteller Kate Adams will take attendees “Under the Sea” with a special program designed for children.

At 4 p.m., Dr. Jerry Harasewych of The Smithsonian Institution will present a program titled, “Shells And The Stories They Tell Us.”

And while Nov. 20 is a day for celebrating the Museum’s history, there are plenty of things that the Museum is looking forward too — like a brand new exhibit in December.

Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane, left, presented a proclamation to Shell Museum Director Dr. Jose Leal, in recognition of the Museum’s 15th anniversary.

“It’s an exhibit displaying world record-sized shells and it’s fully sponsored by the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club,” Dr. Leal said. “Already we have the largest Horse conch, Lightning whelk and Triton trumpet, but we will also have space to add new acquisitions. I’ve already heard from at least one gentleman with specimens to enhance the exhibit.”

The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is located at 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For additional information, call the Museum at 395-2233 or go to www.ShellMuseum.org.