Shell Museum Exhibits

Exhibits Map

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1. Scenic Entrance Murals

Two high-resolution photographs depicting moon scallops (orange) and Manus Island tree snails (green) by photographer Dr. Henry Domke.

Exhibit sponsored by Harlan E. & Jeanne Wittkopf.
Photos courtesy of Henry Domke. (


2. Gifts from the Seas of Sanibel & Captiva

A display of the most common species of seashells likely to be found on the beaches and in the backwaters of the islands.

Exhibit sponsored by: The Damroth Foundation in memory of William G. Damroth; Mr. & Mrs. Ernest G. Doke; Dennis & Gretchen Triese Delman; and Harlan E. Wittkopf in loving memory of Mili Backus.

3. Sanibel and Captiva Habitats

Local shells live beneath the seas in San Carlos Bay and offshore, on wharves and seawalls, on beaches, in mangrove estuaries, and on dry land.

Exhibit sponsored by the West Wind Inn, Dorothy Dunn Morrison in memory of her husband Dr. Joseph Paul Eldred Morrison, and Codman Hislop.

4. Early Sanibel Shell Collectors

When conchology became a serious science and a popular hobby, early settlers and visiting scientists sampled and classified the rich molluscan fauna of Sanibel and Captiva.

Exhibit sponsored by C.W. & Lucy Stoll in memory of Charles Christian & Anne Christina Stoll, and by Everett & Martha Ballard.

5. Shell Classification Wheel

Turn the sides of the wheel to learn how to classify and identify your Southwest Florida Shells.

Exhibit sponsored by Barbara & Richard Hansen.

6. Kingdom of the Landshells

A sampling of the 25,000 kinds of endangered air-breathing snails that inhabit woods, trees, and gardens. A comprehensive collection of the numerous local forms and relatives from Cuba and Haiti is on display.

Exhibit sponsored by The Marmot Foundation, Codman Hislop, and Morton V.V. White in memory of Harry Tecklenburg.

7. Florida Fossil Shells

Walk through the distant past and examine some of the more impressive fossil shells from Southwest Florida. On display are fossil species paired with their hypothesized closest living relatives. 

Exhibit sponsored by Jon & Beverly Thompson.

8. Ecphora

Rare treasures found in fossil pits from Maryland to Florida. Now extinct, Ecphora flourished some 30 million to 3 million years ago.

Exhibit sponsored by Jon & Beverly Thompson.

9. Calusa: the Original Shell People

Life-size models of a father explaining shell tools to his son and a display of shell hammers, anvils, and fishing tools show how the Calusa of Southwest Florida made the most of their abundant marine resources.

Exhibit sponsored by Anina Hills Glaize in memory of Philip A. Tock.

10. Mollusks, Medicine, and Man

Some shells carry diseases fatal to humans but many have beneficial medicinal qualities, including anticancer and antiviral properties.

Exhibit sponsored by The Charles Edison Fund.

11. Treasures of the Deep - Volutes

Rare or highly prized specimens of the volute family.

Exhibit sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. Daniel Valentine.

12. Shells as Money

Get acquainted with the money cowrie (Cypraea moneta), the most widely circulated currency in history.

13. Carrier Shells, the Original Shell Collectors

Fascinating carrier-shells attach other shells, corals, and small objects to their own shells.

14. School Shell Collection Kit

The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum offers a collection of seashells with an accompanying teacher's guide for schools, children's museums, and similar educational organizations. The Shell Collection Kit is designed to be part of classroom curricula for grades 4 through 8. The kits and accompanying videos, including "Mollusks in Action" (pictured), are available for purchase at the Museum Web site.  MORE


15. The Scallop, Queen of Conchology

A dazzling display of this colorful shell includes its use in art, religion, heraldry, and at the table. The exhibit also provides rich information about their biology, biodiversity, and lists commercially-used species from all over the world.

Exhibit sponsored by Kathleen Sarkin of Orlando in memory of Edward B. Sarkin.

16. Raymond Burr Exhibit - NEW!

Overview of the life of movie star, philanthropist, and shell enthusiast Raymond Burr.

Exhibit sponsored by The Sam & Gertrude Ford Exhibit Maintenance Fund. Memorabilia and photographs donated by Robert Benevides.

17. Treasures of the Deep - Cones

Rare or highly prized specimens of the cone family.

Exhibit sponsored in memory of Dale V. & Nancy Stingley.

18. Sailors Valentines

A magnificent shell art form developed in the early 19th century by women of Barbados and other Caribbean areas for sailors to take home to their loved ones.

Exhibit partially sponsored by 1993 Captiva Boutique, Ann T. Schutt, Nancy Reynolds, Mary S. Page, Anna M. Case, Georgia M. Bissell, and Marjorie P. Lloyd.

19. Cameos, Shell Inlay, Buttons & Bows

An exhibit that includes three highly specialized art forms: cameos, shell inlays, and buttons & bows.

Exhibit sponsored by The Claiborne & Ned Foulds Foundation and Morton V.V. White.

20. Cowries

A new, multidisciplinary exhibit entirely devoted to cowries  explores: their esthetical value and role in "collectability"; their cultural importance and use by humans; and some of their biological attributes.

The exhibit is sponsored by Jean and Richard Rompala of Sanibel Island and is dedicated to all The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum volunteers—past, present, and future.


21. Children's Learning Lab

Check out the interactive displays, shell games, live shell tank, and other goodies and attractions at the Children's Learning Lab. You can't miss it! Adult participation is encouraged.

Exhibit sponsored by Kathy & Sam Galloway in memory of Katherine C. King. Additional funding provided by The Patrick & Aimee Butler Family Foundation and The Claiborne & Ned Foulds Foundation.

22. Deep-sea Mollusks

This exhibit will bring deep-sea mollusks to the surface via an assortment of actual examples from extreme deep environments and interactive video clips.

Exhibit sponsored by James Hartman and Molly Gerlich, and Mrs. J. Howard Wood.


23. Micromollusks, No Small Wonders

An eye-opener to the microscopic world of tiny mollusks, this exhibit introduces the concept that marine micromollusks are very abundant and diverse in many areas of the world, especially in tropical and subtropical regions.

Exhibt sponsored in memory of Captain William H. & Vivienne H. Snyder.

24. MMM....Mollusks!

Find how your favorite edible mollusks are prepared in five continents and send recipes back home or to a friend using the exhibit's touchscreen and dedicated email.

Exhibit sponsored by James Hartman and Molly Gerlich, Harry G. Lee, John Lightbourn, Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs, and The Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market.

25. Shell of the Moment

Temporary exhibit of rare, beautiful, or unusual specimens from the Museum research and collection department. The current Shell of the Moment, is a very large (a whopping 14.5 inches!) Queen Helmet, Cassis madagascariensis. It was donated by the late longtime Museum supporter Dale Stingley of La Belle, Florida.


26. Shells in Architecture

From times immemorial, shell forms have inspired crafters, builders, and architects from many cultures. See how shell shapes, patterns, and proportions have influenced architectural design throughout history.

Exhibit sponsored by the West Wind Inn of Sanibel.

27. Shells in Geography

Diverse shells of the Pacific Northwest, Saudi Arabia, and Japan.

Exhibit sponsored by the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club.

28. Cephalopods

Life-size models of a giant squid, nautilus, and octopus, in addition to photographs and text, explain the three main surviving branches of Cephalopods. The exhibit covers many aspects of cephalopod biology and related folklore, and includes a 13-foot model of a giant squid (Architeuthis dux).

Exhibit donated in memory of Zoe W. Hartman by James Hartman, Victoria & Lester James Hartman, Anne Marie, David, Matthew, Sarah & Laura Hartman.

29. Worldwide Record-Size Shells

The exhibit displays, among other record-size shells, the largest known representatives on record of four very large species: the Goliath conch, the lightning whelk, the Atlantic trumpet triton, and the horse conch.

Exhibit sponsored by the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club.


30. Worldwide Shells

Centerpiece of the Great Hall of Shells is a six-foot diameter globe surrounded by shell exhibits from various geographic provinces.

Exhibit sponsored by Pat & Harvey Wilmeth, Codman Hislop, Sumitomo Corporation, American Express Corporation, Morton V.V. White, and Merle B. Smith.

Gifts From The Seas of Sanibel & Captiva Sanibel & Captiva Habitats Sanibel & Captiva Habitats Sanibel & Captiva Habitats Early Island Shell Collectors Shell Classification Wheel Kingdom of the Landshells Ecphora Calusa, the Original Shell People Florida's Fossil Shells Treasures of the Deep - Volutes Shells in Architecture Mollusks, Medicine, and Man Shells as Money School Shell Collection Kit Carrier Shells, the Original Shell Collectors The Scallop, Queen of Conchology Treasures of the Deep - Cones exhibit Sailors' Valentines Worldwide Record-Size Shells Raymond Burr Exhibit - NEW! Cameos, Shell Inlay, Buttons & Bows
Cameos Cowries COMING SOON: Deep Sea Mollusks Children's Learning Lab MMM....Mollusks! Shell of the Moment Cephalopods Shells in Geography Worldwide Shells  Micromollusks, No Small Wonders Entrance Hall

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