Fakes and Copies: 10,000 Year Old Facsimile Elephants —

There is a new and booming trade in ivory. Siberian tusks are being traded openly and legally – global warming is defrosting the permafrost releasing millennia old mammoth remains as it does. This unexpected new industry is cashing in on the illegal trade of elephant ivory by selling these newly available, old tusks as an ersatz equivalent.

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There are ethical concerns around a trade that cultivates a market for ivory of any sort – Telegraph article here.

I'm more interested in the idea that the replacement stand-in is more interesting, rare, and desirable than the thing it's supposed to be substituting. In my mind mammoths occupy a similar territory to dragons and dinosaurs - part myth, part legend, from a time so long ago they can only exist in stories. Yet here are these tangible reminders of what used to be, now freely available on the open market. Whole glorious tusks, polished to perfection for those who can afford it (approx $15-20k), shards and offcuts for the curio hunter with less deep pockets.

I find the blatant commercial nature of the thing at once disgusting and grimly alluring. I want some mammoth tusk – but I'm also aware that the story it tells isn't about treasure lost in the tundra, it's a story with layers of sadness about peoples effect on the world and how we exploit it.

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Kelham Island Museum: Museum of Tools —

Kelham Island Museum is part of Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust, which gives an idea of the sort of thing going on inside this old iron foundry. I was expecting general local history, cutlery, coffee pots etc. but hadn’t appreciated that those skills also meant that Sheffield made a lot of engineering and hand tools too.

As such, the museum is also host to the extraordinary Hawley Collection. A remarkable assortment of tools and works in progress that show how the tools were made. This means that the tools that made the tools are also presented - leading to a wonderful sort of meta exhibit.


The really great thing is that it’s a personal collection turned institutional, and where you’d expect more gaps, and more bias you’re met with sheer quantity of artefacts and a really well presented, coherent exhibit. Both the character of the founder, Ken, and the group of volunteers that man the ‘research room’, (biscuits and enthusiastic tool chat were more noticeable) are firmly felt in the gallery.


Elsewhere in the museum is the massive River Don Engine that came to the museum straight from the factory floor where it had been used to make armour plating for nuclear power stations.


I also really appreciate any museum that incorporates it’s archives and restoration work into it’s displays – It gives a sense of continuation, activity, and relevance.