Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum recognized with international travel award

SANIBEL, Fla. (Sept. 18, 2020) – The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum has been selected for Tripadvisor’s coveted Travelers’ Choice award, honoring the Sanibel Island institution as one of the top-rated institutions in the world.


Each year, the travel giant combs through hundreds of thousands of reviews and ratings on its global platform to identify the top 10 percent of institutions.


“We’re thrilled our museum is again recognized as one of the world’s best,” said José H. Leal, Ph.D., interim director and curator of the museum. “Our guests’ reviews help us tailor our experience to create optimal enjoyment. It’s a team effort, and we’re ecstatic to receive this award.”


Located in the Shelling Capital of the World, the scientific institution is the only museum in the United States dedicated solely to shells and the animals that create them. In March 2020, the museum unveiled its new aquarium gallery, “Beyond Shells: The Mysterious World of Mollusks,” which highlights the living animals that create those shells prized by ocean explorers and beachgoers.


Eleven aquariums ranging in size from 100 to 900 gallons were added, and their residents include gastropods, octopuses, nudibranchs, giant clams, and nautilus. Two 15-foot-long touch tanks let young visitors get their hands wet as they explore the world of mollusks, furthering the museum’s educational efforts that already reach thousands of schoolchildren each year.


“While our beaches are world-famous, they’re actually the second-best place to find shells on Sanibel,” Leal said. “In addition to our live mollusks, our unique collection of shells reflects the finest examples of hundreds of species from around the world.”


The Tripadvisor honor comes as the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum celebrates its 25th anniversary this fall, having welcomed more than 1 million visitors to date. The nonprofit museum is an integral part of Sanibel Island, a curving Gulf of Mexico barrier island that’s known worldwide for its shells and its efforts to protect marine animals.


The museum also emphasizes the environmental dangers today facing the shell-builders, which are threatened by rising sea temperatures, habitat loss and overharvesting. Although there are more mollusks in the ocean than any other animal, many are endangered, going extinct faster than new species can be named. And as key parts of the ocean’s food web, as mollusks decline, so will other marine species, such as whales and dolphins.


The museum is open daily. To promote the health and safety of each visitor, museum staff sanitize the museum three times each day, have plenty of room for social distancing, require masks and has installed protective barriers at the front desk and interactive touch pools.


To learn more about the museum, plan a visit and purchase tickets in advance, visit


About the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is the only museum in the United States devoted solely to shells and the living mollusks that create them. Opened in 1995, its mission is to connect people to the natural world through their love of shells. Extensive collections, programs, and expertise inspire learning, support scientific research, and tell the story of mollusks. A world-renowned malacologist, highly trained marine biologists, environmental educators, and passionate volunteers offer visitors from around the world a wealth of knowledge about the scientific, cultural, historical, and culinary importance of shells. The museum is the leading authority on Sanibel and Captiva shells, with exhibits that include the rare junonias, fig snails, pen shells and more. It also displays some of the largest shells in the world, including the Goliath Conch, Lightning Whelk, Atlantic Trumpet Triton and Horse Conch. The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is a registered 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.




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Bridget Randazzo