SANIBEL, FL (February 11, 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, 2021.


As Deputy Director, Chief Operating Officer, and Special Projects Director at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida since January 2018, Sam 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 (pre-pandemic). He coordinated the Norton’s transitional logistics for a $110M expansion designed by Foster + Partners that opened in February 2019, and has managed operational and program areas including marketing, education, and visitor experience.


Prior to joining the Norton Museum of Art, Sam spent 14 years at Shelburne Museum (Shelburne, VT) overseeing fundraising, marketing, and membership for Vermont’s largest museum, renowned for its collections of art and Americana which number some 150,000 works. For four years, Sam was Director of Major Gifts for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Vermont. Sam began his career in the music business.


Sam has earned a B.A. in American Studies at Yale University, and is a 2019 graduate of the Getty Museum Leadership Institute in Claremont, CA. Personal interests include time at the beach, reading, music, cooking, hiking, and racquet sports. We look forward to welcoming Sam, his wife Emily, and their two daughters, ages 18 and 23, to our Museum and Community Family.


Sam and his family have visited and shelled on Sanibel since the late 1970’s, and he is very excited to join the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, the communities of Sanibel and Lee County, 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/Curator with Board of Trustees support to ensure daily operations of the Museum until mid-March. José will then continue in his role as Science Director/Curator to further our collection-based research, prepare for updated and new Accreditations for the Museum, and provide expanded educational programs for members and our larger audience.


Hold the dates of March 24 or 26 for an event to welcome Sam and Emily to our island, our community, and our Museum. The future is very bright for the Museum, and with your continued support and Sam’s leadership it will be exciting to see what will be accomplished.


About the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum: The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is a Natural History Museum, and the only museum in the United States devoted solely to shells and mollusks. Their mission is to connect people to the natural world through their love of shells and the marvelous animals that create them. Their collections, programs, and expertise inspire learning, support scientific research, tell the story of mollusks, and the ocean that they inhabit. There are more mollusks in the oceans than all marine mammals and fish species combined, and mollusks are becoming extinct faster than they can be named due to climate change, ocean acidification, and pollution. For more information on the Museum, please visit or call (239) 395-2233.