The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum collection (acronym: BMSM) consists of circa 123,000 catalogued lots. It is an amalgamation of private donations, collections originally in other institutions, and material collected by the Museum. The Curator is assisted in collection chores by 1.5 part-time Collection Associates and about seven Curatorial Assistants (volunteers). BMSM consists mostly of Recent mollusks, with a focus on the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and the Caribbean. There are circa 2,500 fluid-preserved lots. Fossils represent only 5.5% of the total number of lots. Digitization of the collection started in 1997, through a MS Access-based platform. By the time of the Museum’s first accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) (March 2010), only 27,000 lots (out of an originally estimated 120,000) had been catalogued. On that occasion, one of the “Areas of Improvement by Next Review” recommended by AAM’s Accreditation Commission was that the Museum should take action to “... further improve the documentation of collections.” This process started in October 2012 with the inception of the first of two “Museums for America – Collections Stewardship” grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The catalogue resides in a dedicated server, and is backed-up daily both in-house and through a commercial service (Mozy Pro).
In 2011, BMSM incorporated about 11,000 lots from the local Florida Gulf Coast University. The decision by the FGCU administration to move the collection to the Shell Museum shows the degree of trust placed in the organization. The 10,000-lots Redfern Collection, donated in 2014, includes material illustrated in Colin Redfern’s “Bahamian Seashells” books. The regional relevance of the collection is substantiated by circa 7,500 lots of marine mollusks from Sanibel and Captiva islands and neighboring areas. BMSM includes 18 primary types and 211 secondary types. Collection workers are assisted by a 4,000+ volume specialized library, high-resolution photographic equipment with digital stacking software, and other relevant tools and equipment.
Metadata are available from the Shell Museum web site at http://shellmuseum.emc2webs.com/collection/ (right) and iDigBio/Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF, left) at http://ipt.idigbio.org/resource?r=bmnsm-shell. About 9,200 lots are georeferenced . The resource has been registered with GBIF, and is itself registered in GBIF as a data publisher endorsed by U.S. Geological Survey. The online identification guide “SW Shells with Emphasis on Sanibel & Captiva”, currently covering 355 species, is based on the BMSM Collection.