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The Missing Tusk

Interventions at Wells & Mendip Museum

As a member of the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen I had the opportunity to make a new piece of work for  this exciting exhibition which is in conjunction with Wells Art Contemporary

Inspired by the artifacts in the Wells and Mendip Museum, local artists and craftsmen have placed new and exciting work alongside the Museum displays.

I had the privilege of helping museum staff to move some of the ancient exhibits from the case and back again whilst they displayed my tusk. I didn’t touch the actual Woolly Mammoth tusk shown in the front of the picture here, I was afraid it would turn to dust, it is so old it looks like a rotting tree.

My new piece of work is inspired by the remains of a Woolly Mammoth tusk whilst questioning the ethics of scientists as they plan to re-introduce the Woolly Mammoth to the Tundra.

The “Woolly Mammoth Project” that’s in progress in the USA explains that scientists hope one day to re-introduce the woolly mammoth to the Tundra by copying DNA from the mammoth genome into living elephant cell cultures and growing them from artificial embryos. This could take many years as they have to find all the DNA from fossilized remains of Woolly Mammoth found under the melting ice in the Antarctic and sequence them to find the genes in order to make the cells.

If they are successful they believe that the huge animals could help to tackle the problem of the warming climate. By trampling and scraping the ground the animals help to compact the snow pushing it further into the ground allowing deeper freezing of the permafrost during winter. Scientists also believe that ancient DNA might hold secrets that could aid modern medicine or tackle a recent elephant virus.

Personally I feel excited by the prospect of these ancient creatures living again, however I am skeptical that they can live in a warming climate and I’m not easy with the ethics of it. I also wonder what diseases and viruses they could bring back along the way.

Recent research has suggested that the woolly mammoth had lots of mutations in it’s genome, (some were good like it’s subsequent ability to survive in freezing temperatures) but many of them were bad and may have led to it’s extinction.

My tusk reveals the inside of the structure, drawing comparisons with Mammoth fossilized remains and the proposed reconstruction.

A small golden woolly mammoth is hidden inside a hole ( the hole represents the circular cut a scientist performs to extract DNA from the marrow.)

The small model of the mammoth is missing a tusk and part of a leg to suggest an incomplete gathering of DNA.

Where there are mutations is it possible body parts might grow elsewhere?

Can you find the missing tusk?

(details of photos will help!)

The Missing Tusk

(wire, fibreglass mesh, cement, gilded metal leaf glass, gilded metal leaf, marble, gilded rubber mammoth toy, gold lipped oyster shell)

Wells & Mendip Museum

8 Cathedral Green


Somerset BA5 2UE

6 – 21st October 2018

If you enjoyed reading this post perhaps you would like to buy me a coffee …

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  1. Hi Kate! Love your tusk – away next week but will go up to the Ex the following week!

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