From Tusks to Treasure: 
Ivory from the Milligan-Kirkpatrick Collection

Exhibition Education Guide
Focuses on Saving the Elephants


September 13 – October 26, 2014

Reception October 16, 7pm
Lecture by Laura Bottaro, Animal Curator, OKC Zoo
Hosted by Friends of the MGMoA

This exhibition illustrates the beauty and intricacy of ivory carving.  While most of the carvings in this exhibition are Asian, some are of European and African origin.  These carvings include figures, boxes, puzzle balls, and even a sword. 

The soft, lustrous beauty of ivory has been appreciated since prehistoric times, with some of the world's earliest sculpture crafted from the material.  A product derived from teeth, it is most often from tusked animals such as elephants and wild pigs, or marine mammals such as walrus and narwhals. Some other large-toothed animals such as hippos and camels provide "teeth media" but "ivory" is most often used in context with tusks.

Elephants provide the majority of ivory used by craftsmen. Unfortunately, there has been growing demand for the material at a time of dwindling elephant populations due to loss of habitat and overhunting in both Africa and Asia. This has forced the international community to severely curtail the harvesting of ivory. It is currently illegal to import ivory into the US, and/or sell it within our borders. Protections are also extended to marine sources of ivory. Exceptions are new items made from fossil ivory (collected from extinct mammoth and mastodon), and certain works of art created by native Eskimos using marine ivory.

This exhibition contains many of the wonderfully intricate and beautiful pieces of the Milligan-Kirkpatrick Collection that was gifted to the museum last year.   This collection was formed in the early 20th century and includes objects created before world-wide regulations were put in place.  The collection was gifted to the museum with the understanding that it would be utilized to draw attention to the growing problem of ivory poaching and the resulting impact on elephant populations.

  • Allied Arts
  • Oklahoma Arts
  • National Endowment

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