homepage logo

Shell Museum celebrates 20 years by giving back to the community

By Staff | Nov 11, 2015

José Leal, Paul Brown, Smoky Payson, Tom Risher, Lorin Buckner, Dorrie Hipschman, Melanie Moraga, Paul Gulbrandsen, Jenny Kovach and Pilar Holmgren are gearing up for the celebration. MEGHAN McCOY

Two celebrations will be held at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum to celebrate opening 20 years ago.

“For our birthday, we’ve decided to give a gift back to the community – we’re grateful for the support of our many friends who make everything we do possible,” Executive Director Dorrie Hipschman said. “It’s a great reason to have a party to celebrate how far we have come.”

In October 1986, discussion started for establishing a shell museum by Betty Doan Johnson during a Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club meeting. In 1988, the Bailey brothers, Francis and Sam, provided a letter of intent identifying 8-acres of land, appraised at $215,000, they wished to deed to the museum project. The lot was about 300 feet deep laying 1,300 feet along Sanibel-Captiva Road.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation approved the proposed site in 1989.

Although obstacles surfaced during the construction, a grand opening ceremony was held on Nov. 18, 1995.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is offering free admission.

“It is free for everybody all day,” she said.

The museum held its first free day last year attracting approximately 700 people. Hipschman said she expects the crowd to be larger this year.

The day will be filled with arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, live tank demonstrations, freezie pops and a birthday cake from Bailey’s General Store. Five hundred presents, one per family, will also be handed out while supplies last. She said the Shell Museum shell bag will be full of all kinds of goodies.

The arts and crafts, Hipschman said, will include such favorites as shell animals and shell magnets. Although volunteers will be on hand to help the youngsters with hot glue guns, she asks that parents help their children.

“We do ask that parents help their children do them,” she said of the arts and crafts that the children can take home.

The live tank demonstrations will be held throughout the day providing individuals with the opportunity to see mollusks up-close and personal.

“It’s amazing to me how many people don’t know how a shell is made, or that an animal lives in it, or makes it,” Hipschman said.

The 20-year celebration will conclude with an Open House from 5:30-7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 18. Light refreshments and drinks will be available.

“It’s sort of a combination of an anniversary and birthday party and a homecoming all rolled into one,” Hipschman said. “It is obviously an anniversary because we are an organization, but it really feels like a family reunion to us.”

She encourages everyone who has been involved with the museum over the years to stop by during the Open House.

“We are encouraging anyone who has been involved with the museum, who were here 20 years ago, or some people who were here 25 years ago before it started (to stop by),” Hipschman said. “People who helped get it started. People who might have served on the board. People who might have been volunteers. People who have been supporters, donors and members. If you have only been a member for a year, you are just as welcome. There is a lot of people on Sanibel that have been our friends. We would like to encourage them all to come to the Open House.”

She encourages individuals who have pictures of the museum from past years, as well as artwork to bring it with them on Wednesday.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the people that I may not know who were very instrumental and very active in getting the museum up and running,” Hipschman said.

A highlight of the Open House is guest of honor Peter Dance, a British conchologist, historian of natural history and author of “Compendium of Seashells,” which was co-authored by R. Tucker Abbott, former Shell Museum founding director. Dance has spent many winters collecting shells on Sanibel.

“People who speak of him are just glowing. He is very well-respected. He is sort of a cherished person,” Hipschman said. “He is going to do an informal welcome and say a few words.”

Extra parking will be available at SCCF for both days.

“We would really like to encourage, particularly locals, to come on their bikes,” she said. “We have new bike racks that were donated by Billy Rentals, which is great. We have a bike crossing now at the museum, new within the last year. So, we would really like to have people ride their bikes because it is a nice bike ride for pretty much anywhere on Sanibel. We would love to have families get out with their kids and ride their bikes over.”

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is located at 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road. For more information, call (239) 395-2233, or visit www.shellmuseum.org.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.