Past events
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For more than 40,000 years, humans have been using the tusks of mammoths and elephants to fashion figures, musical instruments and everyday objects – some of which have found their way into museums and collections. But ivory is not just an exquisite raw material – it is also a symbol of the violent, colonial context in which it was acquired, as well as of humans’ exploitation of nature.

The material’s enduring value has been a driver of the brutal practices of illegal hunters and the imminent extinction of elephants, as well as the continued exploitation of the natural resources of countries in the Global South by former colonial powers. How much of the responsibility for these injustices is borne by the museums which hold and exhibit ivory objects? How should museums and collections deal with existing pieces, and what guidelines can be implemented for the future?

The Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss and ICOM Deutschland will discuss the role and scope of museums in dealing with ivory at a symposium at the Humboldt Forum on 17 January 2022. Beginning with a curator’s tour of the ‘Terrible Beauty. Elephant – Human – Ivory’ exhibition, followed by contributions from international experts on material aesthetics, natural history, history of collections, jurisprudence, animal welfare and economics, participants will collectively develop a set of recommendations for future collection and exhibition practice.

With contributions from:

  • Alberto Saviello, art historian and curator of the ‘Terrible Beauty. Elephant – Human – Ivory’ exhibition at the Humboldt Forum
  • Lydia Kitungulu, Head of Exhibitions, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi
  • Cheryl Lo, Wildlife Conservationist, former WWF Hong Kong, London
  • Ingo Ludwig, Conservation Officer, Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection, Berlin
  • Uwe Moldrzyk, Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
  • Fritz Fischer, Director, Kaiserliche Schatzkammer und Kunstkammer / Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

This symposium will be conducted in German and English.

Contact persons: Dortje Fink [email protected] and Dr. Uta Kornmeier [email protected].


Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss (SHF)