German Ivory Museum

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Erbach Castle , the new location of the German Ivory Museum since 2016

The German Ivory Museum in Erbach im Odenwald is the only special museum for ivory in the world.


In the last quarter of the 18th century, Count Franz I. zu Erbach-Erbach introduced the exotic material ivory to the leg and horn twists of his royal seat. In the period that followed, Erbach developed into the German "ivory town" and was one of the most important European centers of ivory carving . Ivory workshops are still active in Erbach today, which have switched to fossil ivory and alternative materials since 1989 after the world trade ban for elephant tusks (1973) and walrus ivory (1979).

The impetus for founding the museum on October 29, 1966 came from the 400-piece ivory exhibition on Hessentag 1962 in Michelstadt . In the following years, the founding director Hans-Werner Hegemann succeeded in putting together a basic inventory, which was shown in the newly built town house initially as the Erbach Ivory Museum and, after constant expansion, since 1976 as the German Ivory Museum Erbach . Two extensions in 1977 and 1984 took account of the further expansion of the collections. In the first half of 2006 the museum was expanded and modernized again.

In August 2013, the museum was included in the Red List of Culture of the German Cultural Council and classified in Category 1 as threatened with closure . The district town of Erbach, as the sole cost bearer until now, was no longer able to finance the costs of running the museum according to the requirements of the municipal protective umbrella of the State of Hesse .

On December 31, 2015, the museum at the old location was closed. In the course of 2016, it moved to the premises of Erbach Castle and was reopened there on November 9, 2016 with a new exhibition concept sponsored by the State of Hesse. In seven rooms on the ground floor of the palace, a chronological tour of the exhibits on the art of ivory carving in Erbach and its main actors is offered. Ivory carvers show techniques, tools and materials in an outbuilding.


Exhibit in the permanent exhibition

The permanent exhibition of the museum, which has been housed in a modern building and is unique in scope and type, comprises more than 2,000 exhibits of various origins and dates of creation. The European ivory art from the Middle Ages to the present is presented as well as the carving arts of Africa, Asia and Greenland.

One focus of the collection is naturally the work of the Odenwald ivory carvers of the 19th and 20th centuries, for example the carvings by Jan Holschuh . The museum also provides information about the techniques, tools and materials involved in ivory processing, and regular carving demonstrations in the museum workshop illustrate work with ivory.

In addition to the permanent exhibition, there are also temporary exhibitions that often have no direct reference to ivory. The ivory carvers with their workshop are already active at the new location and introduce visitors to their work. They also demonstrate carving with other ivory-related materials of animal and vegetable origin, such as the tagua nut .

The Association of Friends and Patrons of the German Ivory Museum Erbach supports the work of the museum within the scope of its possibilities.

Other ivory museums in the region are the private ivory museum Michelstadt and the church ivory museum Walldürn .

Literature (selection)

  • Hans Werner Hegemann: The German Ivory Museum Erbach in the Odenwald. Origin and development. In: From Hessian museums 2, Kassel 1982, pp. 29–48.
  • Hans Werner Hegemann: Signpost through the German Ivory Museum Erbach, provided with finger points to understand the exhibits. 3rd, revised edition, German Ivory Museum, Erbach 1984
  • Arianna Giachi: German Ivory Museum - curiosities of a dying art. In: Hendrik Markgraf (Ed.): Museumslandschaft Rhein-Main. Societäts-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1991, ISBN 3-7973-0490-0 , pp. 52-54.
  • Monika Eschner: Museums in Hessen. A handbook of the publicly accessible museums and collections in the state of Hesse. 4th edition. Hessischer Museumsverband, Kassel 1994, ISBN 3-9800-508-8-2 , p. 369f.
  • Brigitte Dinger: Jan Holschuh (1909-2000) and his work for the German Ivory Museum in Erbach. In: Gelurt. Odenwälder Jahrbuch für Kultur und Geschichte 2001, pp. 202–204.

Web links

Commons : German Ivory  Museum Erbach - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The history of the German Ivory Museum in Erbach ( Memento from June 10, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  2. The new concept of the permanent exhibition 2006 ( Memento from June 10, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  3. 8. Red list of threatened cultural institutions (published in P&K 5/13). Retrieved June 13, 2019 . , on
  4. MuseumsElfenbeinmuseum opens after a year with a new concept , on, accessed on June 13, 2019
  5. Frankfurter Allgemeine from September 10, 2015: Hesse saves ivory in the Erbacher Schloss
  6. Frankfurter Allgemeine from November 9, 2016: German Ivory Museum: Graefliche Bleibe
  7. The exhibition - history and evidence of the Odenwald ivory carving , on

Coordinates: 49 ° 39 '46.8 "  N , 9 ° 0' 2.7"  E