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Publication: PLASTICS: Looking at the Future, Learning from the Past (2009)

PLASTICS: Looking at the Future, Learning from the Past

Edited by Brenda Keneghan and Louise Egan

Archetype Publications, 2009

ISBN: 9781904982432

Paperback, 184 Pages. 96 colour, 41 half tones Illustrations

This volume of postprints of a conference held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, is intended as a ‘marker in the sand’, a record of current perceptions and considerations of plastics within museum collections.

Artists' concepts of plastic as a medium, and their views of ageing and decay, challenge museum ethics. The dichotomy between an artist’s intent and engagement with their contemporary culture and longevity has resulted in many different resolutions - from the display of original (decayed) materials to recording and recreating digital images of the original to the creation of aesthetically interpretable replicas. The balance between using and preserving ‘plastic’ artwork is a fine and delicate line of compromise.

The complex enigma of how to identify from which (of the many) synthetic polymers, the mass-produced ‘plastic objects’ within our collections are formed, remains, as yet, unsolved. Instead, through experience, observation and research, museums are developing collecting policies, recording techniques and preservation strategies which take pragmatic and utilitarian approaches, differentiating between stable and unstable plastics on the grounds of age, colour, design etc. Whilst generic understanding of decay mechanisms are becoming more fully understood, there has been limited success in creating the tight environmental controls needed to extend the longevity of plastic-based materials.


Conservation of Plastics

Early cellulose nitrate coatings on furniture of the Company of Modern Craftsmen
Angela Meincke, Daniel Hausdorf, Nonie Gadsden, Mechthild Baumeister,
Michele Derrick, Richard Newman and Adriana Rizzo

Conservation of plastics: is it possible today?
Yvonne Shashoua

Conservation: restoration of 20th-century collections at The Homewood (Esher) and 2 Willow Road (Hampstead)
Fiona Macalister, Caroline Cliffe, Sally Johnson, Ann Katrin Köster and Christine Lachelin

Houston – we have a problem: when flying saucers become brittle
Tim Bechthold

The conservation of polymers used in horology since the end of the 19th century: a multidisciplinary approach
Agnès Gelbert Miermon and Annick Vuissoz

Go with the flow: conservation of a floating sculpture from 1961 made from glass fibre-reinforced polyester resin
Lydia Beerkens, Sanneke Stigter, Thea van Oosten and Henk van Keulen

Educating conservation of modern materials: case studies
Friederike Waentig

Matthew Barney’s Stadium: a treatment of replacement
Margo Delidow, Roger Griffith and Scott Gerson

Innovative conservation: scenarios for future collaborations
Louise Cone

Exploring photogrammetry and laser scanning of plastic sculptures
Lyndsey Morgan, Jackie Heuman, Derek Pullen and Stuart Robson

Scientific Investigation

Naum Gabo’s Construction in Space: Two Cones: history and materials
Beth A. Price, Sally Malenka, Ken Sutherland, Andrew Lins and Janice H. Carlson

Preventive conservation research for plastics on open display
David Thickett and Emma Richardson

Lights out! The conservation of polypropylene wall tapestries
Thea B. van Oosten, Irina Fundeanu, Clementine Bollard, Cristina de Castro and Anna Lagana

Testing treatments to slow down the degradation of cellulose acetate
Susan Mossman and Marie-Laure Abel

Collecting Plastics

You collected what?! The risks and rewards of acquiring cellulose nitrate
Mary Coughlin and Ann M. Seeger

Challenge of materials? A new approach to collecting modern materials at the Science Museum, London
Fran Coles

Taking a risk: collecting for the future
Sue Prichard and Suzanne Smith

You can have a new one – it’ll be better anyway! Plastic challenging art insurance
Thomas Wessel

Aspects of Design

Plastics in everyday life: polymorphous (in)authenticity
Tom Fisher

Hazards at home?
Erin Leary and Chris Youssef

Design and sustainability
Steve Akhurst

Utilising waste plastic in design practice
Rosie Hornbuckle

Artist’s Intent

Site-specific polyethylene: experiments in durability
Pamela Wells

A plastic story: an intimate look at the artist-material relationship
Emma Neuberg