George Ohr's priceless pottery moved out of harm's way

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – With Tropical Storm Ida churning in the Gulf Monday, workers at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum are taking all the necessary precautions.

"No chances whatsoever; Not with our art work," said Museum Curator Barbara Ross. "George Ohr's art is a national treasure and we do everything we can to protect it."

Sixteen pieces of George Ohr's one-of-a-kind pottery are being moved out of the museum's temporarily location at the Glenn Swetman House in Biloxi.   It is a delicate packing process.

"You have to hold the pottery very carefully and not pick up by the handles and twist it," said Ross.

Each piece must be photographed and documented, including bowls, vases, pitchers and creamers.

"This is an ink well made by George Ohr.  It's a replica of Beauvoir," said Ross as she picked up a unique piece.

Then, the pottery is placed into thick foam that's been pre-cut to fit every piece perfectly. The final step is wrapping the pottery for extra protection.

Along with the Ohr collection, all 25 pieces from the museum's permanent exhibit will also be packed-up and moved to a safer location.  They include ceramic sculptures and pottery that were either acquired by or donated to the museum.

With so much history lost during Katrina, the museum's curator said it's more important than ever to save this irreplaceable part of the Gulf Coast heritage.

"It is a national treasure," Ross said. "It is important to the people of Biloxi and arts collectors throughout the world. I couldn't sleep at night knowing I had left the pottery unprotected in a storm.  It's very important to me to make sure it's cared for properly."

Because of security reasons, museum leaders can't say where the collections are being moved to.  They would only say that they are kept in a secure storage facility, out of the flood zone.

The collections will return, as soon as the weather clears.  The museum is closed and will reopen on Wednesday.

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