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Shell Museum debuts exhibit of world record-holders

By Staff | Jan 19, 2011

The newest exhibit at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, entitled “World Record Size Shells,” was sponsored by the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club.

The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum latest exhibit — which features four world record-holding shells — is now open.

“We always wanted to do an exhibit on the world record sized shells we have here in our collection,” said Shell Museum Director Dr. Jose Leal. “But the real turning point was last year when we had a chance to acquire the world record-holding Horse Conch from a shell collector named Mark Johnson in South Carolina.”

Johnson had loaned the Museum the shell, but Leal approached some of the Museum’s friends and donors and secured the funding to purchase the shell, making it a permanent part of the Museum’s already impressive collection.

“From that moment on, we realized we had the four world record holding shells of some of the world’s largest shells,” Dr. Leal said. “And not only are they the biggest of their kind, but these shells are already some of the largest in the world.”

With four world record-holding shells already on hand, Dr. Leal spoke with members of the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club, all of which jumped at the chance to support the proposed exhibit.

Former Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club President and current member Dick Willis was president when the Club decided to approve funding for the world record exhibit.

“This is something that we felt would be worth spending money on, because it would establish a permanent legacy for the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club,” Willis said. “It’s also publicity for the Shell Club — we always want to attract new members.”

The four shells represented in the Museum’s world record exhibit are the Goliath Conch (Eustrombus goliath), the Lightning Whelk (Busycon sinistrum), the Atlantic Trumpet Triton (Charonia variegata) and the Horse Conch (Triplofusus giganteus).

“It’s very appealing because those four shells are spectacular shells all on their own. And the beauty of this exhibit is that it is an open exhibit — we have space there to bring in new records. If the shells we have cease to be world record holders, we’ll take them out and replace them with something else,” Dr. Leal said. “It’s something all collectors want to know — where is the largest specimen?”

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

Admission is $7 for adults 17 and up, $4 for youth ages 5-16 and free for children age 4 and under.

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