Every single day, The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum prides itself on the dedicated passion and help of its many volunteers who commit their free time in helping the museum in its mission.
The Museum also is home to a handful of staff members who help ensure that the day-to-day operations run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. From light fixtures to collections management, to proper staffing, someone is there to ensure that the visitors' experience is always world class, as it should be for the only accredited museum dedicated solely to shells in North America.
This brings focus to one of the newest staff members to join the Museum in recent months, Harry Ridenour, the Museum's maintenance person. In just three months Ridenour has taken it upon himself to clean and update all of the Museum exhibits. In reality, he is more like a maintenance aficionado with skills that go beyond simple repairs. For instance, he plans to redesign display motors in rotating parts of the central globe exhibit to better suit the heavy weight of the fixture. Not surprising for a man who is part of a race crew and a car enthusiast in his spare time.
Harry Ridenour cleans the Queen Helmet which is part of the newest Shell of the Moment exhibit.
"There is lots of work still left to do, like lifting all the really heavy glass off the displays, which requires suction, and cleaning the exhibits under there," Ridenour said, gently lifting a delicate Queen Helmet shell - the Museum's newest Shell of the Moment specimen - from its case to wipe away the dust. "But, whatever I could access without special tools, I went ahead and cleaned so we can keep it in great shape for the visitors."
Details are very important to Ridenour, who took trips to several marinas to find a piece of wood that needed to be replaced in the Sailors Valentines display. He said it took a while to find, but he proudly pointed out the near perfectly matched plank, that one would never spot without having been told, is not part of the original piece of a dock that houses the Valentines on display.
Some displays, like the Mangrove Estuaries which recreates a scene of a mangrove at low tide complete with bared mangrove roots. A raccoon, exposed mollusks and skittering crabs takes up a large space and requires a lot of care and caution not to break or disturb its delicate inhabitants. Walking carefully and using compressed air, Ridenour dusted and cleaned the entire display.
The job is delicate and challenging, taking many hours to complete, but Ridenour isn't done. From switching all the display lighting to LED bulbs (and those seem countless) to figuring out how to dust the delicate Calusa shell mannequins on display, to simply wiping fingerprints off the glass, he is on a mission to ensure that nothing escapes his attention.
For more information on the museum visit www.shellmuseum.org, or call (239) 395-2233.