Original Article Link: http://santivachronicle.com/Content/Latest-News-/Latest-News/Article/Joffe-s-Mollusk-General-Hospital-Superstar-of-Shell-Show-/19/18/4750
Anne Joffe is a superstar in the world of shells. Now she is the recipient of the Anne Joffe Superstar Award for her exhibit that has turned out to be the superstar of the 79th edition of the Sanibel Shell Show.
Her sprawling Mollusk General Hospital comprised of 22 display cases of injured shells is a tour de force as an interpretive exhibit, combining a lifetime of skills that only few have mastered. It took 40 years of thinking and four years to build. The finished product is educational and, most of all, fun.
“If you want to teach, you can’t bore them,” said the elegantly attired Joffe on opening day of the Shell Show on Thursday, March 3. “I want people to learn what it took me 40 years to learn, and to do that you have to have a gimmick. If you don’t they will walk away in three minutes.”
The gimmick began as part of Joffe’s deep love for shells.
“I’ve been here 43 years, when the population of Sanibel was 522,” she said. “I’ve spent my life on the beach.”
Her life has been shells. For years she was chair of the Shell Show, she’s written books on shellcrafting, and her and husband David’s She Sells Sea Shells stores at each end of Periwinkle Way are island icons. She has looked at lots of shells and the creatures that inhabit them.
“I noticed lots of shells with injuries. I asked ‘what happened?’ I started picking them up and they were alive. I said, ‘Someone needs to build a hospital.’”
That was 40 years ago. The idea germinated and took shape. Four years ago when she stepped away as head of the Shell Show and passed the torch to Mary Burton, she had the time. Mollusk General took four years to complete. No one saw it coming.
“I worked on it in secrecy for two reasons. One, if I didn’t get it done, no one would know. And two, I wanted the element of surprise,” Joffe said.
She entered a prestigious show earlier this year and came away with the DuPont Trophy, the highest honor. Only major award winners can qualify for the Sanibel Shell Show’s Anne Joffe Superstar Award and the winning of the DuPont Trophy qualified her. She won the Superstar Award, and for those who have the good fortune of seeing Mollusk General at the Shell Show that comes as no surprise.
“Oh my gosh!,” said one.
“Holy Cow!,” said another.
Those are remarks from the normal visitor at the Shell Show. It extends all the way to the top.
“It is such an amazing creation. There is nothing else like it,” said Dr. Jose Leal, longtime curator at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum and one of the world’s leading authorities on shells.
“This exhibit insures her legacy,” Burton said. “She has reached the pinnacle at one of the premier shell shows in the world. It took four years for her to do the research and build it. She deserves the Superstar Award more than anyone.”
Each shell is unique because each one is injured. They are displayed in beds in a long row of different hospital wards.
“It was hard to get into this hospital,” Joffe said with a big smile. “For every shell people see here I have 10.”
She has fun with it.
“They have to be really hurt, and they need insurance or Medicare,” she quipped, pointing to a particular shell. “Here, this one got hurt and grew a second head. It’s got two heads. If you had two heads they’d put you in a jar.”
The exhibit was a labor of love and the hospital is laced with humor, some of it quite subtle. But that doesn’t mean it was all fun.
“I spent four years making beds,” she said. “Then there are the linens. I thought I would never stop making both.”
Then came the painstaking research, the work that turned this into a scientific and educational exhibit. She toured a hospital in order to make her hospital authentic.
“I spent a lot of time making beds, but the part that took the longest was getting the right information to pass along,” she said.
Like Joffe, Harland Wittkopf was in on the ground floor of the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum and he’s co-authored shell books with Joffe. He too could be found near Mollusk General at the Shell Show.
“Anne has been heartbeat of everything shells on this island. She headed it all and this shell show wouldn’t be the same today without her,” Wittkopf said.
“When she stepped aside she had time to do this,” he said with a glance to Mollusk General. “There will never be an exhibit that will compare. It is a fitting tribute to Anne.”
A few years ago the Shell Show created the Anne Joffe Superstar Award to honor extraordinary achievements in the world of shells and her years with the Shell Show. Now it’s gone full circle. Mollusk General Hospital is the Superstar of the 2016 Sanibel Shell Show.