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Shell museum planning for $6M upgrade

By Staff | Mar 22, 2018

PHOTO PROVIDED Rendering of the project planned for the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum has big plans for the future, like live aquariums.

At the Annual Membership and Volunteer Appreciation luncheon today at The Community House, officials revealed that the museum is in the early stages of a capital campaign to transform the venue and expand its research and educational reach. The one-year project is estimated to cost $6 million.

Executive Director Dorrie Hipschman explained that the museum’s vision is to connect people to the natural world. By transferring that connection to a relationship with the animals that create shells, it can change the perceptions of visitors about the natural world and connect them to the oceans and nature.

“There’s two overarching reasons for the project – one is related to visitors, one is related to the environment,” she said. “The museum is committed to environmental education, and we are simply outgrowing the work we can do with one live touch tank.”

“Experience has taught us people need to see the living animals and experience them up close and personal,” Hipschman added.

PHOTO PROVIDED Rendering of the project planned for the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.

The project will focus on three areas: renovating the facade of the building and the front entrance; introducing several new aquariums, or a living collection; and increasing exhibit and program space.

The entryway’s existing wooden staircase will be replaced with a two-story glass atrium.

“So that all visitors will enter the museum on the first floor and have the same welcoming experience,” she said, adding that the replacement of the steep stairs will eliminate physical and visual barriers.

Next, the museum will add a living collection on the ground level to go with its shell collection. Presently, there is a live tank in the Children’s Learning Lab and an 8-foot one on the ground floor.

“The new aquarium facility will have 10 to 15 aquariums – between 100 and 1,000 gallons – as well as an extensive touch tank, so that we can accommodate all museum visitors,” Hipschman said.

PHOTO PROVIDED Rendering of the project planned for the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.

It will be the first aquarium in the world devoted solely to mollusks of all species and geographies. There will be local and non-local species, along with squid, octopus, cuttlefish and nudibranchs.

“We’ll be able to feature mollusk species from around the world,” she said.

A new, state-of-the-art touch tank will provide hands-on educational programs for visitors.

With the welcome desk and retail store moving to the ground floor for the new entrance, the second floor will open up. For the project’s final focus, the museum will increase its exhibit space to emphasize current environmental issues and will use the area for flexible programming, even traveling exhibits.

“The museum will be able to provide more daily programs to our visitors, which have been hugely popular,” Hipschman said. “People learn best from other people.”

She also pointed to issues like climate change, ocean acidification and species extinction.

“There are huge environmental issues facing us today, and it (the additional space) gives us more opportunities to inform our visitors,” Hipschman said.

The improvements will not require the addition of a new building or more land. The museum also does not plan to expand its on-site parking as a study found the majority of visitors were staying on-island.

“We don’t expect to change the footprint of the museum at all,” she said.

Construction is anticipated to begin in January, with a tentative completion date of January 2020.

Officials expect the venue to remain open to the public throughout the construction.

“We think we can do the bulk of the work while the museum is fully functional,” Hipschman said.

Preliminary estimates have the total cost for the project at $6 million. She explained that the museum will have a better idea in a few weeks, after talking to donors and collecting construction estimates.

“We’re in the pacesetter portion of our funding campaign,” Hipschman said.

The museum will launch a public fundraising campaign in the fall.

Once operational, the updated facility will be revenue-positive and can be used to underwrite educational programs for all ages. She noted that the museum has no current debts nor mortgage.

“We are funding the entire construction of the facility,” Hipschman said.

She added that a slight future increase in admission will help to provide extra revenue.

“The museum has not had anything of this caliber since it was first built in 1994,” Hipschman said of the planned project.

In 2013, it renovated the store and welcome desk, as well as upgraded to hurricane-proof windows.

For more information, contact Hipschman at 239-395-2233 or dhipschman@shellmuseum.org.

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is at 3075 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel.

Shell museum planning for $6M upgrade

By Staff | Mar 22, 2018

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum has big plans for the future, like live aquariums.

At the Annual Membership and Volunteer Appreciation luncheon today at The Community House, officials revealed that the museum is in the early stages of a capital campaign to transform the venue and expand its research and educational reach. The one-year project is estimated to cost $6 million.

Executive Director Dorrie Hipschman explained that the museum’s vision is to connect people to the natural world. By transferring that connection to a relationship with the animals that create shells, it can change the perceptions of visitors about the natural world and connect them to the oceans and nature.

“There’s two overarching reasons for the project – one is related to visitors, one is related to the environment,” she said. “The museum is committed to environmental education, and we are simply outgrowing the work we can do with one live touch tank.”

“Experience has taught us people need to see the living animals and experience them up close and personal,” Hipschman added.

The project will focus on three areas: renovating the facade of the building and the front entrance; introducing several new aquariums, or a living collection; and increasing exhibit and program space.

The entryway’s existing wooden staircase will be replaced with a two-story glass atrium.

“So that all visitors will enter the museum on the first floor and have the same welcoming experience,” she said, adding that the replacement of the steep stairs will eliminate physical and visual barriers.

Next, the museum will add a living collection on the ground level to go with its shell collection. Presently, there is a live tank in the Children’s Learning Lab and an 8-foot one on the ground floor.

“The new aquarium facility will have 10 to 15 aquariums – between 100 and 1,000 gallons – as well as an extensive touch tank, so that we can accommodate all museum visitors,” Hipschman said.

It will be the first aquarium in the world devoted solely to mollusks of all species and geographies. There will be local and non-local species, along with squid, octopus, cuttlefish and nudibranchs.

“We’ll be able to feature mollusk species from around the world,” she said.

A new, state-of-the-art touch tank will provide hands-on educational programs for visitors.

With the welcome desk and retail store moving to the ground floor for the new entrance, the second floor will open up. For the project’s final focus, the museum will increase its exhibit space to emphasize current environmental issues and will use the area for flexible programming, even traveling exhibits.

“The museum will be able to provide more daily programs to our visitors, which have been hugely popular,” Hipschman said. “People learn best from other people.”

She also pointed to issues like climate change, ocean acidification and species extinction.

“There are huge environmental issues facing us today, and it (the additional space) gives us more opportunities to inform our visitors,” Hipschman said.

The improvements will not require the addition of a new building or more land. The museum also does not plan to expand its on-site parking as a study found the majority of visitors were staying on-island.

“We don’t expect to change the footprint of the museum at all,” she said.

Construction is anticipated to begin in January, with a tentative completion date of January 2020.

Officials expect the venue to remain open to the public throughout the construction.

“We think we can do the bulk of the work while the museum is fully functional,” Hipschman said.

Preliminary estimates have the total cost for the project at $6 million. She explained that the museum will have a better idea in a few weeks, after talking to donors and collecting construction estimates.

“We’re in the pacesetter portion of our funding campaign,” Hipschman said.

The museum will launch a public fundraising campaign in the fall.

Once operational, the updated facility will be revenue-positive and can be used to underwrite educational programs for all ages. She noted that the museum has no current debts nor mortgage.

“We are funding the entire construction of the facility,” Hipschman said.

She added that a slight future increase in admission will help to provide extra revenue.

“The museum has not had anything of this caliber since it was first built in 1994,” Hipschman said of the planned project.

In 2013, it renovated the store and welcome desk, as well as upgraded to hurricane-proof windows.

For more information, contact Hipschman at 239-395-2233 or dhipschman@shellmuseum.org.

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is at 3075 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel.