The collection contains ivory carvings of all periods as well as outstanding and numerous examples of medieval ivories. The extensive collection of medieval ivories was established by the end of the 1860s through a series of purchases from the London dealer John Webb and greatly strengthened by the Salting Bequest in 1910.
During this period, ivories were produced all over Europe, often in monasteries and ecclesiastical or royal courts. Often ivories were used for liturgical purposes. Ivory carvings appeared on book covers, reliquary caskets, antependia (the panel in front of an altar) and religious icons.
Designated the National Collection of Sculpture, this collection concentrates on Western European Sculpture from the 4th century to the end of the 19th century. Highlights of the collection include masterpieces from the Italian Renaissance, ivory carvings of all periods, Northern European wood and other sculpture, commemorative medals and plaster casts. The sculpture collection contains approximately 22,000 objects.