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Virtual Conversation: Material Reflections—Ivory and Ebony in a 17th-Century Cabinet



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Adam Eck

Join Jonathan Tavares, associate curator of Applied Arts of Europe; Emily Fry, director of Interpretation; and Anibal Rodriguez, anthropology associate, American Museum of Natural History, for a deeper look into the materials and the material conditions that contributed to the creation of the Augsburg Cabinet. This elaborate work was crafted with ornate decorations made of ebony veneer and ivory inlay, materials deemed precious by 17th-century Western Europeans and that in the 21st century we recognize were acquired through the exploitation of the natural environment, and often the peoples who live there. Tavares, Fry, and Rodriguez will guide us through a conversation around the shifting unease and value sets this object encapsulates.

About the Speaker

Anibal 3

Anibal Rodriguez began his career in 1977 at the American Museum of Natural History. As a curatorial assistant in the division of anthropology, he was charged with addressing the issues that come with organizing, cleaning, and designing a new storage system after a century of neglect. Originally slated as a 25-year endeavor, it is now in its 40th year of development.

During that time, Rodriguez was responsible for the supervising researchers and students visiting from around the world. Experiencing the vast collections—ethnographic, archeological, and biological—provided an invaluable educational opportunity and experience that could not be had in a classroom setting. This served as the foundation for today’s collections management and studies. 

Rodriguez’s interest in ivory, bone, horn, and related matter resulted in invaluable contributions to the identification of materials, which later would be appreciated by researchers, scholars, and law enforcement alike. He closely followed technological advances in DNA, artificial intelligence, and electronics to understand problems facing museum collections, as well as concerns about conservation and protection of the natural world. Over time, these conservation efforts have expanded to protect elephants and rhinos, valued for their ivory, along with other animals and plants. Law enforcement aid these efforts by guarding animals and plants against those who poach and destroy under the guide of collecting artifacts.

Please note that all event times listed are in central time.

We recommend using a laptop or desktop computer and downloading the latest version of Zoom to enjoy this program. You can submit questions for the speakers in advance or during the program using the Google Form below.

If you have any questions about virtual programming, please reach out to

Closed captioning will be available for this program. For questions related to accessibility accommodations, please email


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