Aquarium Construction Updates

We love you—Please DON’T visit!


As our friends return, we know that you’re curious about all the changes at the Museum. Nevertheless, we are a busy construction site, and it’s not safe for you to drive around our parking lot, walk our property, or come into the building right now.


Every day, our parking spaces are nearly full with construction workers' trucks. There are building materials everywhere, and there is work going on all around—overhead as well as underfoot. We want you to be safe! Please wait until we partially reopen in mid-December.


If you need to drop something off for us (we’re still taking shell donations for our crafting programs that will start up again in December) please call, and one of our staff will meet you at a convenient place. Thank you for your understanding!


PS: Yes—this means you too!

Wanna Cuddle?

October 25, 2019

Actually the name is cuttle, but who cares with critters this cute? We can’t wait to welcome them to our aquarium and we’re certain they’ll charm you to pieces. Don’t like their color? Wait a few seconds, and they’ll change their appearance! They’ll look you in the eye—and I swear they smile—I know I smile back. There are a number of different species of cuttles and, surprise, they’re in the cephalopod family just like squid and octopus—what amazing diversity there is in the mollusk world.

We’ve gotten a face lift—and we love our new eyes for looking out. Beautiful two–story windows that are flood proof, wind proof, and impact resistant. Here’s a picture. May I refer you to the first section above—please be patient and don’t come over for a closer look yet!

Windows to the World

We all Live in a Yellow Submarine!

October 2, 2019

Well, it’s large and waterproof with impact-resistant windows anyway. For those of you who are concerned, no, we are not leaving the building this color. The bright yellow is actually the waterproofing that we put on the new siding before we add stucco. Some of us actually like the yellow and will be a little sorry when we cover it up! But we’re looking forward to moving ahead with finishing the exterior. The new glass walls will be installed in about two weeks, and we can’t wait to remove the plywood and get some light back!

When we started this project, we had no idea the size, weight and space that would be needed for animal (and people) life support and comfort. Chillers, generators, salt water mixing tanks, air handlers, and the list goes on and on. Our old mechanical platform in the back of the Museum was a small wooden structure. My, how we’ve changed. It’s all huge—and fascinating. We’re looking forward to sharing some of the amazing new things we can do when we host our behind-the-scenes tours in a few months.

Monumental Mastodons

A New Window to the World

August 16, 2019

This picture is looking from our new second floor (with its opened-up vaulted ceiling) out of what will be our two-story glass atrium. We love the view and the natural light! We’re also grateful for the entire crew that is making it happen. It’s not easy when you add massive diagonal steel beams to a building composed of two intersecting octagons. There was actually one beam that had to be moved two inches after it was installed because the field measurements were a tiny bit different, and every inch counts. This crew made it look almost as easy as telling the furniture delivery people to “scooch the couch a couple of inches to the left.” The good news is, we’re still on schedule. Let’s buy them more Gatorade.

Nope! These columns will form the bases of the new aquariums—so we’re pretty excited to see them growing out of the floor. Aquariums full of water (and mollusks!) weigh a lot. (A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds.) This means that they need a lot of support. We’ve not only built these columns, but the concrete floor underneath has also been super-reinforced for added support. We’re running a chilled-water loop to each aquarium to keep our animals at just the right temperature. That takes power, so we also needed to add electrical service. There’s a lot of “background” work that has to be in place and done perfectly before the fun part starts—adding our animal residents.

A Cave Full of Stalagmites?

50 Shades of Green

July 18, 2019

We’re delighted that our 50 yards of grey (asphalt) has now been spruced up with lots and lots of native trees, shrubs and ground covers. It took a lot of work by Leigh Gevelinger of Coastal Vista Design and the crew at R.S. Walsh Landscaping. So I guess it really isn’t easy being green—to quote my favorite frog friend. But, now it looks fantastic out there! The new irrigation and nightly thunderstorms will ensure that it grows in well, and looks lush and inviting far into the future.

Last week we celebrated our independence from rebar! We now have a new, smooth 9 ½” inch reinforced concrete slab for our entire first floor. Soon the walls will go up. And, our staff is happily able to get back to our third floor offices. We’re doing our best to get everything ready so that visitors can join us in the Great Hall of Shells as soon as possible.

We’re Floored by the Progress We’re Making!

Architects, Aquarium Designers, and Contractors, Oh My!

June 21, 2019

Just as Dorothy needed lots of friends to navigate her way through OZ, this Dorothy (Dorrie’s real name) wouldn’t find her way without lots of help along the way. Here, the team is working through a multitude of decisions, options, and choices with our aquarium design partner Tenji, Inc. It’s all intersected and complex. Fortunately we have great brains, warm hearts, and lots of courage! From left: Dorrie Hipschman, Amy Nowacki, Bob Bacigal and Ed Seidel

The Museum staff has been banned from the Museum until next Wednesday after the first section of concrete has been poured. It was no surprise to us as we looked at the multitude of rebar squares that we had to negotiate to get to our staircase. 


We’re happy to vacate as the annual conference for the Conchologists of America is this week, and is conveniently being held at the South Seas Island Resort on Captiva. So, we’re spending our time with 300+ of our closest shell-loving friends. Back next week to a fresh new slate...can’t wait.

Prepping the Ground Floor for the First Concrete Pour

A "Shelluva" Great Walk

June 6, 2019

I’ll admit to being distracted these days when I’m headed into the Museum. It’s not the piles of dirt. They’ve been here awhile now. It’s not the cooler of Gatorade sitting on the outside bench (we’ve been donating a couple of cases a day to our great construction crew). It’s not even the rebar posts sticking out of the ground, looking like iron weeds.


No. It’s our new bike path! It’s just loaded with fossil shells. Their average age is at least 1 million years. And our staff gets first crack at doing the Sanibel Stoop all the way down the parking lot and into the building. I have so far refrained from getting out my beach scoop and digging deep—it’s still smooth and perfect—and waiting for our first bikers to arrive.

Well, not quite. But the ceilings on our second floor are a lot higher than they were just a month ago! Those of you who know us well, will know that our building is actually two octagons joined together. It’s a lot like a wedding cake whose top has slid sideways just a tad. The outside ceiling of the second floor has now been opened up to go all the way to the roof line in those places where the top wedding cake tier isn’t there. 


Too complicated to explain—take my word for it. It’s going to be great.


And it will enable us to bring in taller traveling exhibits, art installations, and more innovative programs that require more vertical height. We can’t wait.

The Sky’s the Limit!

Demolition Going "Swimmingly"

May 9, 2019

We know it will get worse before it gets better, but each wall that comes down makes us smile. Each steel support beam that gets exposed makes us breathe a sigh of relief. (So far they've all been exactly where the 25-year-old plans say they should be!)

Benchmark's construction teams have been fun to be around—and they're doing a fabulous job. The worksite is immaculate every evening, ready to start again the next day. We're convinced there's not enough Gatorade in the world to keep these guys cool when they're digging trenches or jack-hammering out concrete. We greet each day as a new adventure—moving into the Museum's bright new future.

This project isn't just about adding an aquarium. It's also about making our thousands of visitors feel welcome, and being more accessible.

The Museum's terrible grey wooden entrance stairs are now a thing of the past. They'll be replaced by two-story glass windows and all visitors will receive the same warm welcome from our Museum staff and volunteers in our new ground-floor atrium.

Old Stairs Come Down as We Step Toward the Future!