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Shell museum names new executive director

By BMNSM - | Feb 12, 2021


On behalf of the board of trustees for the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, Sam Ankerson has been selected as the new executive director for the museum, effective March 15.

As deputy director, chief operating officer and special projects director at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach since 2018, Ankerson was involved in all aspects of managing an institution with a collection of approximately 8,000 works of art, 100 staff and 150,000 visitors annually. He coordinated the Norton’s transitional logistics for a $110 million expansion designed by Foster + Partners that opened in 2019 and has managed operational and program areas including marketing, education and visitor experience.

Prior to joining Norton, Ankerson spent 14 years at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont overseeing fundraising, marketing and membership for the state’s largest museum, renowned for its collections of art and Americana which number some 150,000 works. For four years, he was director of major gifts for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Vermont. Ankerson began his career in the music business. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in American studies from Yale University and is a 2019 graduate of the Getty Museum Leadership Institute in California.

Ankerson and his family have visited and shelled on Sanibel since the late 1970s. He is excited to join the museum and communities of Sanibel and Lee, and to work to celebrate and preserve the natural history of mollusks and their shells through understanding their ecosystems locally and globally.

Dr. José H. Leal will serve as interim director and curator with the board of trustees’ support to ensure daily operations of the museum until mid-March. Leal will then continue in his role as science director and curator to further the collection-based research, prepare for updated and new accreditations for the museum, and provide expanded educational programs for members and the larger audience.

A welcome event for Ankerson and his family will take place on March 24 or 26.