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Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum to present lecture series for milestone anniversary

By Staff | Jun 10, 2021

In celebration of its 25-year anniversary milestone, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum will present a new lecture series available virtually and free of charge via Zoom. Extending through the fall, it will spotlight some of the diverse connections between shells and different fields of human endeavor.

“With a great program of speakers, we look forward to welcoming audience members wherever they are to learn about different ways in which shells and mollusks impact our lives, and vice versa,” museum Executive Director Sam Ankerson said.

The first four lectures of the “Celebrating 25 Years” series are:

• June 15 at 5 p.m.: “Artistic Adaptations: 2,000 Years of Seashells in Art” with the Shelburne Museum’s Francie and John Downing Senior Curator of American Art Kory Rogers and Shelburne Museum Curator Emerita Jean M. Burks

For millennia, shells have provided artists with inspiration. Whether physically incorporated, stylistically interpreted or scientifically rendered, land and marine mollusks appear as important motifs or primary subject matter in diverse works of art. From ancient Rome to Louis Comfort Tiffany, the program will explore the surprising interpretation of bivalves and gastropods in paintings, furniture, ceramics, glass and metalwork historically. It is the first of a short Artistic Adaptations series over the coming months to also feature shells in adornment — jewelry and clothing — and architecture.

Burks and Rogers are accomplished art museum curators, former colleagues, and shell collectors and enthusiasts. Burks is also a Sanibel resident, Shell Ambassador, and collections volunteer at the Bailey-Matthews museum. The Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont, is a leading museum of art, Americana and design, with collections numbering over 150,000 artifacts.

• June 29 at 5 p.m.: “Curator’s Choice: New Photographs of Extraordinary Shells, and the Digital Imaging Project at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum” with the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum’s Science Director and Curator Dr. José H. Leal

Leal will present a selection of exceptional images from the new exhibition “In Focus: Precision Photography of Extraordinary and Uncommon Shells,” which is on display through Nov. 28.

He will discuss his choices of images, the different groups of species represented and their unique qualities, and special photographic techniques adopted to ensure a high level of richness and detail. Leal will also discuss the Digital Imaging Project, for which the photographs have been made, and its global scope and impact for scholars, scientists and enthusiasts of shells and mollusks.

• July 13 at 5 p.m.: “Oysters: A Crystal Ball for Water Quality in Southwest Florida” with Melissa A. May, assistant professor of marine biology at Florida Gulf Coast University

May leads FGCU’s oyster monitoring research program in Estero Bay. Oysters are mollusks and essential members of coastal water ecosystems. The shelled animals play an important role in the health of water and their reefs provide homes and food for other marine animals. They act as indicators for declines in water quality or other stressors imposed on estuarine ecosystems and help to clean the water by filtering large volumes of water through their shells.

Her talk will focus on the range of threats to the health of oysters and other mollusks in Southwest Florida — in addition to freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee — with an emphasis on her new research program in Estero Bay.

• July 27 at 5 p.m.: “Supersized Squid” with Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum’s Senior Marine Biologist Rebecca Mensch

Mensch will present a program about the giant squid and the colossal squid. For millennia, the giant squid has captured the imagination and inspired tales of sea beasts such as the kraken. Because of the extreme depths the magnificent mollusks live in, many questions about the animals have gone unanswered until the last two decades. With recent advances in technology, many mysteries of the two extraordinary mollusks are finally beginning to be revealed, but there is still much to learn. Mensch will share new findings and images to tell the unique story of the supersized squid.

The series is free, but advance registration is required at ShellMuseum.org.