When the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum & Aquarium re-opens following over 16 months of closure and rebuilding after Hurricane Ian, visitors will enjoy redesigned and reinstalled permanent exhibit galleries that emphasize more shells, conservation and marine life education, and a more dynamic visitor experience. The Museum will re-open in phases, with the Living Gallery of Aquariums expected in early February and the Great Hall of Shells later in the spring.
Among the post-Hurricane Ian realities was substantial damage to all gallery spaces, necessitating reconstruction and also allowing a unique opportunity to rethink and refresh the exhibits in ways that will expand educational impact.
The Great Hall of Shells houses exhibits of shells from around the world and debuted when the Museum first opened in 1995. The space has been fully redesigned to exhibit a much greater number and diversity of shells than before, featuring approximately 3,500 specimens with a dazzling array of beauty and global biodiversity. Special exhibit focuses will include Southwest Florida shells, world-record-sized shells, deep-sea species, land snails, and ancient fossils. An expanded section of exhibits about shells in human culture will include new spotlights on shells in currency, adornment, music, art, architecture, spirituality, food, collecting, and medicine.
A new section of the Great Hall devoted to conservation and environmental education will include exhibits on regional water quality, climate change, invasive species, aquaculture, and restoration initiatives. Also included will be a new family activity area.
In the Living Gallery of Aquariums, the exhibits of live animals will be restored with the same mix of over 60 species of marine life as prior to the storm, including Giant Pacific Octopus, Two-Spot Octopus, Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Giant Clam, local mollusks, and other favorites. However, the exhibits surrounding the aquariums have been redesigned to dive deeper into the biology and behavior of mollusks, and their care and husbandry at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum & Aquarium.
The new exhibits are curated by Dr. José H. Leal, Science Director and Curator, with support from Executive Director Sam Ankerson. They are designed by Matter Practice of New York City, whose recent projects include exhibits for the National Building Museum, Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, and the Norton Museum of Art, among others.
The Museum is grateful for the support of donors, Members, and volunteers who have contributed to its recovery and renewal, and who continue to help meet the needs of the island communities and all areas impacted by Hurricane Ian.
Visit www.ShellMuseum.org/post-ian-progress for updates on progress to date and reopening status.
About the Museum: The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is a natural history museum, and the only museum in the United States devoted primarily to shells and mollusks. Its mission is to use exceptional collections, aquariums, programs, experiences, and science to be the nation’s leading museum in the conservation, preservation, interpretation, and celebration of shells, the mollusks that create them, and their ecosystems. Permanent exhibitions on view include the Great Hall of Shells which displays highlights of the Museum’s collection of some 550,000 shells, as well as the Living Gallery of Aquariums and over 60 species of marine life. For more information, please visit ShellMuseum.org or call (239) 395-2233.