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Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum looks ahead for 2017
March 15, 2017

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The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum held its annual report meeting for 2016 last Monday. Dorrie Hipschman, executive director of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, said that 2016 was a strong year.

"We've grown a lot during these last couple of years in terms of our staff and I also have to say that the caliber and the quality of the people who are now working at the museum is just first-rate," Hipschman said. "I'm so confident in what we can do going forward into the future because of the team that we have assembled here."

Last year, the museum incorporated a new educational program, Mollusks on the Move. The program already has 21 visits scheduled this year all around Lee and Collier counties. Hipschman said the museum will have a separate collection of animals just for that program.

"By 2018, we're going to have a fully-realized Mollusks on the Move," Hipschman said. "The museum is committed in every possible way to connecting people to the natural world around them. The way we do that is we take a shell and we want to connect them to the amazing creature that is the shell creator."

Their other educational program, Adopt-a-class, reached 2,822 fourth graders last year. That number is 60 percent more than last year. The Adopt-a-class program brings students from Title 1 schools around Lee County to participate in hands on science, tank talks, exhibit hall and art at the museum. For many of the students, the field trip to the museum is their first time on Sanibel.

During the meeting, Hipschman said that financially, the museum is in a good place. According to their unaudited financials, they garnered $1.63 million last year through admissions, donations and memberships, grants, programs and events and retail.

"The museum, I'm proud to say, given the work of the last 25 years of people in this community, is financially in a very good position. We have been investing in our future and we are able to do that with confidence," Hipschman said.

To extend its scientific research even further, the museum joined iDigBio last year and added 117,000 shells to its online collection, making that information accessible to scientists all over the globe.

Hipschman said that 60,000 visitors from all over the world visited the museum last year. She said one of their most popular, and fastest growing programs, has been their afternoon shell crafting sessions that are free with paid admission.

"It is amazing how popular shell crafting is for our visitors," Hipschman said. "We have actually expanded that program and it is now hugely popular and it is not just for kids."

Another popular program for the museum are their hourly live tank talks, over 2,190 were given last year alone.

Out of 17,500 museums in the U.S., the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is one of only 802 that is accredited.

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