Monday, 16 July 2018

Rescued by a Plastic Bottle

We were having a discussion in the office the other day about the many ways in which plastics have contributed to ‘rescuing’ people. For example, literally, through lifesaving equipment such as buoyancy aids and indirectly, through providing recycling/upcycling solutions for poorer communities. This inspired me to find out how the humble plastic bottle is being ingeniously utilised to ‘rescue people’.

1. Solar lightbulb:

Refill an empty plastic bottle with water, add some bleach to prevent algal growth, insert through the roof, secure in place and the bottle acts as a solar lightbulb with daylight being refracted through the water to create light inside.

Originally developed by Alfredo Moser in 2002, bottle-light technology inspired the creation of the
Liter of Light charity in 2011. In only four years the charity had installed 350,000 solar lightbulbs in 53 different countries and had also developed a solar panel addition to create street lighting at night.

2. Air Conditioning Unit:

Cut plastic bottles in half and mount them into a board which is then placed over a window. The change in air pressure as the air enters the wider part of the bottle and is funnelled through to the narrower end cools the air inside.

Designed by
Ashis Paul in 2015, he presented his idea to his employer who decided to develop a working prototype and put the downloadable plans online for free as a social project. In three months, the eco-cooler had been installed into 25,000 homes across rural Bangladesh.

3. Canoe:

Collect approximately 1000 plastic bottles, clean them, tie them together in blocks of ten, connect the blocks and insert a wooden board to create an ‘ecoboat’, capable of carrying up to 3 people and a load of 90kg.

Designed by Ismaƫl Essome when he noticed how discarded plastic bottles were contributing to the flooding of his local neighbourhood. He created his first canoe in 2016 and set up his company Madiba Nature to provide recycled, ecological canoes for local communities at a fifth the cost of a wooden equivalent. His aims are to reduce plastic bottle pollution, to promote sustainable fishing and to encourage ecotourism.

4. Brick:

Collect empty plastic bottles, fill them with mud/sand and you have the basic building blocks required to create schools and homes. There are many projects taking place across the world where organisations are helping local communities to build using discarded PET bottles.

And finally, not a bottle but a bottle top:

5. Bottleshower:

A polypropylene plastic top designed by Tim Jeffrey to fit a standard sized water bottle, acts as a tap allowing a constant flow of water that is ten times more efficient than if the water was poured out manually.

Originally designed for refugee camps, the Bottleshower has also been adopted by the emergency police response teams in London to aid in the treatment of acid attacks.

We have many objects in the MoDiP collections that are made from recycled/upcycled plastic bottles ranging from a string of lights to a pushchair and even school uniform. If you want to find out more about the history of the plastic bottle and how it can be recycled, take a look at this case study

Katherine Pell (Collections Assistant) 

Monday, 9 July 2018

Website Refresh

If you have used the MoDiP website lately, you will have noticed it has had a refresh.

Here are the main changes:

  • You can favourite objects in the collection
  • The three top tabs; The Collection, Resources, Exhibitions & Events have become nine tabs so the content has moved.

You can favourite objects in the collection

  • Why would you want to?

You might want to remember something you have seen.

You might want to view objects in real life.

You might want to use objects in a teaching session.

If you are a researcher, student, member of AUB teaching staff, or just someone with an interest in our collection you can now favourite objects and keep them in a list to refer back to later. By favouriting objects, you can create a list, edit it, add to it, and refine it. 

  • How does it work?   

First, you will need to register and sign in to the website using the buttons at the top right of the page: 

Then, view the collection and select the objects you would like to use by clicking on the 'Add to my favourites' button below the object.

You can review your list under the 'My Favourites' link at the top of the page. Here you can remove any unwanted objects by clicking on the 'Remove from my Favourites' button under the object.

If you then want to view the objects in real life, send an email to including the following: 

  • your user name (so that we can see your list)
  • the preferred date and time that you would like to visit
  • what you would be doing with the objects eg. photography, drawing, object analysis
  • any other information

Once received, a member of the MoDiP team will respond as soon as possible to discuss your requirements.

The three top tabs; The Collection, Resources, Exhibitions & Events have become nine tabs so the content has moved.


Under this tab you can explore our collections. You can search using keywords or the object number if you know it. You can also filter your selections by various criteria including if it has an image or not, when it was made, and who made or designed it.


Here you will find our inspiring case studies to see how other people have used our collections in their learning and teaching. We also share how we have worked with school children, resources for learners at different stages in life, and children’s activities relating to plastics in general and to specific exhibitions.


Here you can find out everything you need to know about visiting the museum and using the collection in your research.


Under this tab we explore what plastics are, the different materials and manufacturing processes, and we look at plastics and the environment. Here you will find useful books and links.


In this section we share the research that we have been carrying out at the museum and the Arts University Bournemouth.


We have a small number of industry supporters, and would like to develop more in the future.


We share all of our current and past exhibitions online, complete with links through to the objects displayed.


Any upcoming events will be advertised under this section, along with any past events that are often written up or filmed and the content is shared here.


Here we share the projects that we have worked on. These include the very popular A Curator’s Guide, Identifying plastics toolkit, and Confronting plastics preservation all funded by the Plastics SSN.

If you can't find anything that you are looking for drop us a line and we will be ahappy to help.

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Monday, 2 July 2018

The methodological potency of ‘happening upon things’

MoDiP was pleased to contribute a workshop to the AUB Research Conference 2018, which focused on research methodologies.

Our workshop set out to try out ideas put forward by Nicholas Thomas, Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, in The return of curiosity – what museums are good for in the 21st Century.  His starting point is:  ‘If the world of research embraces a bewildering range of methods, there is nevertheless something peculiar (I mean both distinctive and odd) about that of the museum, which begins less with discourse or theory, with a problem inherited or framed, than simply with stuff – with works, artefacts or specimens of whatever kind.’  He sees this as a strength and believes museums have a role not simply as sources of inspiration but ‘as creative technology’ akin to digital technology in their ability to make new connections and thus new thoughts. Central to his idea is the scope that museum’s provide for ‘happening upon things’.

The workshop took place within the museum where a collection of some 50 somewhat random objects had been assembled for participants to ‘happen upon’.  They were asked to choose one of them and share what it said to them with the group. For example a Jif lemon  brought back memories of happy childhood holidays; Philippe Starck’s Juicy Salif juicer  proclaimed both the importance of design over function and a retro-vision of the future;  a cycle helmet spoke of safe travelling; and a toy embodied the learning it provides.

Then, sticking with the same object, participants were asked to think up as many ways as they could of classifying it.

For example this milk jug was classified under these headings:

  • Evocations of rusticity / rural utopia.
  • Objects of nostalgia.
  • Design inspiration for a beer mug.
  • Animal portrayals.
  • Domesticity.

The final exercise was undertaken working with a partner. The assignment was to develop a narrative around the two randomly brought together objects they had each chosen at the outset and to add a few more objects from those on the table.

These are the results.

John Cage musical objects collection 

John Cage was a composer and a pioneer of indeterminacy in music. These objects are all capable of making music.

Gabbi Hass and Paul Wenham-Clarke

Nurturing children

A narrative of nurture from birth to knowledge:  the cow representing milk symbolic of motherly love, the bra the nurturing breast, the shoes representing childhood and the toy, a means of learning though experience.

Ian House and Thomas Walsh

Conversation pieces

All pieces that are not what they look like:  a washing-up brush in the form of a punk; a toilet-brush in the form of a cherry; a butter dish in the form of a boat; and ash tray disguised as a ball; and a yarn holder resembling a honey pot.

Diane Beasley and David Lund


The products all have a link to life, the helmet represents the protection of life, the apple nourishes life, the camera records life, and the rose represents the end of life.

Kirsten Hardie and Valerie Lodge

Once participants had selected their objects the session facilitators put together their own group of objects from those remaining.

Gendered marketing

This group of objects explores the use of pink in marketing to products to young girls.

Susan Lambert and Pam Langdown

Susan Lambert (Head of MoDiP)