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Shell Museum reports good season

By Staff | Jun 20, 2013

Tom Risher (left) and Ann Moeder in the collections section at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum.

Of the 17,500 museums in the U.S. The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel is one of just 776 accredited institutions.

Shell Museum (BMSM) features more than 30 exhibits of mollusks from around the world, is a unique resource and an integral element of the island’s character and appeal. The museum saw a significant resurgence during the 2013 season receiving its highest attendance revenues in the last four years. One component of the BMSM mission in this community is to explore and interpret one of the most important leisure activities on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva shelling.

It currently is home to 35,000 cataloged collection lots, displays and identifies 305 shallow-water species from Southwest Florida on its website, and showcases an average of 15 live mollusks in its live tank exhibit throughout the year.

BMSM plays a significant role both in the community and abroad with its focus on education hosting students through its Adopt-A-Class program, sending shell kits to schools across the country and providing a variety of programs for visitors to learn more about mollusks and their role in the environment. Between 2012-13 the museum was host to 48,619 visitors, 2,469 visiting students and 128 classes (10 percent more than 2011-12), and had 650,000 visits to its website. At least 2,300 shell kits have been sent to schools since 1995.

The museum is always looking for ways to engage in mutually beneficial partnerships with island businesses, hosting popular annual fundraising events such as Under The Sea, Oyster-lympics (oyster eating contest) and the Celebrity Island Dinner.

It had 108 dedicated volunteers in 2012 who are winter or year-round residents. They range from casual collectors of seashells to scientists experienced in the field of malacology to former school principals and educators. All have an abiding interest in the museum and its mission.

More than a dozen Sanibel School students are actively involved as junior docents. Volunteers function as BMSM’s exhibit hall docents, school and adult group tour docents, slide show lecturers, collections department assistants, and store salespeople.

“The museum is a unique organization with a strong educational mission and, after almost 18 years of existence, it has become an important presence in our community,” said BMSM director Dr. Jose Leal. “We are sincerely grateful for your support.”

Make sure to plan a trip to the museum. For more information about the museum and hours visit the www.shellmuseum.org, or call (239) 395-2233.