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Special Exhibitions

Adorned by the Sea: Shells in Fashion 


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Throughout time and around the world, shells have been used to elevate and adorn. From ancient cultures to contemporary runway couture, using shells as decorative motifs, carving them into ornamental shapes, and even attaching them in their natural form has transformed ordinary textiles into extraordinary garments. Shells have been used to represent value, nature, and even faith. Adorned by the Sea: Shells in Fashion examines the diverse uses of sea shells and mollusks to enhance our appearance and dress.
From the most expensive purple dyes made with snails to the most conceptual catwalk fantasies made of razor clams and mussels, with works spanning centuries and including a wide variety of designers from unnamed indigenous artists to Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen, and Gucci, Adorned by the Sea offers a complete overview of how we have amplified our own image by borrowing from the wonders of marine life.

Made possible by a grant from the Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation and a gift from Mark and Kathy Helge.

The Search for Something Different: Photographs of Beach and Marine Life by Amy Tripp


Photographer and conchologist Amy Tripp has a unique curiosity, vision, and gift for discovering moments of rarity and wonder in the sometimes-obscured world of Southwest Florida’s mollusks. As a photographer she captures these moments vividly, providing the viewer uncommon and compelling records of the biology, behavior, and habitats of these animals that create some of the most beloved seashells in the Gulf of Mexico. 

This new exhibition presents some of Tripp’s most surprising finds on the beaches of Southwest Florida from over 20 years of exploration. From the ocean to mud flats to oyster beds, Tripp’s lens captures the science, beauty, and interplay of mollusks at all stages of life, and their surrounding ecosystems, in ways that educate and delight. 

The Search for Something Different is co-curated by Tripp and Dr. José H. Leal, Science Director and Curator at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum & Aquarium. 

Artist Statement: 
When my husband and I retired in December 1999 we became snowbirds spending fall and winter on Marco Island. We towed a boat down to enjoy the 10,000 Islands beaches and wildlife. The first winter we enjoyed exploring and picking up shells, but I wanted to know the names and wondered about all the other interesting things we found on the beaches. 

I saw an article in the local paper about a shell club on the island and took some shells in to get identified and ended up joining the club and entering shell shows. We met so many interesting people, and the fellowship among the shelling community is great. People want to share what they experience, and you learn and have so much fun. 

I started taking pictures of shells and other sea life I could not collect because they were alive. The first time I saw the eyes of what could be called a face on a mollusk, I was hooked. One of the great things is the search for something different. Looking at all the images I took every day was the emphasis that compelled me to continue photographing mollusks. 

Amy Tripp     
April 2024
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In the Wake of the Flood: Community Photographs of Hurricane Ian and Its Aftermath


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photo credit: Stephen Plein / New Wave Eco Charters

Hurricane Ian and its aftermath have been, and continue to be, uniquely powerful and life-changing experiences for millions of people, and perhaps especially so for those residents of hard-hit areas of Southwest Florida. Stories and images of the storm can be fierce, frightening, and sad. But courage, resilience, and hope are also hallmarks of the response to Hurricane Ian by so many communities. 

In the Wake of the Flood is an exhibition of photographs taken by people in hurricane-impacted areas including Sanibel, Captiva, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, and elsewhere. They reflect a wide range of personal perspectives and experiences, and a community’s collective view of this major event. Accompanying the images are statements by the photographers of why their image has meaning or significance to them. 

In the Wake of the Flood was open at the Museum February 1 – April 28, 2023.

After reconstruction work began at the Museum, the exhibition was moved to the Sanibel Public Library, located at 770 Dunlop Rd, Sanibel, FL 33957. 

Photographs from the display are available below, and will also be added to Sanibel Public Library's digital archive, located online at 

Questions? Please e-mail
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