The Care and Documentation of Ivory

Bolton Cow and Calf Ivory Plaque

Ivory has been a valued material for the carving and inlay of artifacts and art objects in many world cultures. It has been discovered in archaeological contexts and found use in ethnographic, historic, and decorative arts contexts. While an entire object may be carved of ivory; smaller amounts may be added to other materials like wood boxes or furniture and metal objects such as musical instruments or firearms. This webinar will focus on the collections care of elephant ivory objects and address the other mammal ivories. As all natural ivories share some important similarities, regarding collections care, they are generally treated as a class of related materials. The causes and evidence of damage, as well as preventive measures that can be undertaken, will be discussed. The importance of legal acquisition of ivory and its relevance to the critical protection of living animals will be emphasized. The role of regulatory measures implemented to protect wildlife conservation, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), that impact acquisition and travel of raw and worked ivory objects will be noted. Documentation for internal record-keeping and for travel will be addressed. While conservation treatment will not be covered in this webinar, indications of when to contact a conservator for assistance will be noted.


Stephanie Hornbeck and the Bolton Ivories

Hornbeck and the Bolton Ivories

Stephanie Hornbeck is Chief Conservator at The Field Museum. From 2010-2017, she was Director of Conservation at Caryatid Conservation Services, her private practice in object conservation. From 2010-2016, Stephanie worked regularly in Haiti as a consultant to the Smithsonian Institution’s Cultural Rescue Initiative. In recognition of her work directing conservation recovery of cultural heritage damaged in Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, Stephanie was awarded the Smithsonian Secretary’s Gold Medal for Exceptional Service. From 1998-2009, Stephanie was Conservator at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African Art. She is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC). The study of elephant ivory has been a long research interest for Stephanie. Her most recent article (co-authored with Terry Drayman-Weisser) “An Art Conservation Perspective: Saving the African Elephant and Ivory Cultural Heritage” in Curator: The Museum Journal was published in January 2018.

Recorded: Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Duration: 1 Hour 33 minutes


Ivory PowerPoint Slides


Ivory Handout