Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Free Plastics SSN Seminar, 1 March 2012

This seminar will address the character of different plastics, how they have been used and how best to care for them. There will be an artefact worshop to which you may bring objects from your museum about which you would like to know more. We will also look at the future of the SSN and how it can best serve its members. Although the meeting is free and lunch is provided, numbers are limited so please book by contacting Susan Lambert at

Venue: The Boilerhouse, an Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining venue,
            Springfield Business Park, Caunt Road, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG 31 7F2.

Convenor: Susan Lambert, Museum of Design in Plastics, Arts University Bournemouth

Registration & refreshments                                                              10.30 - 11.00

Susan Lambert              Introduction                                                  11.00 - 11.05
Steve Akhurst                Introduction to Plastics Materials                   11.05 - 11.40
Mark Suggitt                 Buckets, jewels and almost everything            11.40 - 12.15
                                    in-between - Plastics and Design   

Brenda Keneghan         The POPART project - the first                         12.15 - 12.50
                                   structured invesitagtion into the
                                   conservation of plastics

Sandwich lunch provided

Sylvia Katz &                 Artefact workshop                                        13.40 -14.30
Colin Williamson

Break out sessions         Future of the SSN                                         14.30-15.20

End of meeting                                                                                 15.30

Biographies of speakers

Steve Akhurst was initially trained and employed in aeronautical engineering. Thereafter he lectured for thirty years in engineering, eventually becoming Head of Department of Design and Manufacturing at the University of Luton. He studied polymer technology at Cranfield University followed by research into structural foam and has been involved with plastics from the late sixties as design consultant for a number of major plastics moulding companies. He has an outstanding collection of moulded plastics artefacts with design or processing significance with a particular interest in plastics table ware. He is currently Chairman of the Plastics Historical Society.

Sylvia Katz is a design consultant and author. She has a degree in Art & Design History from Bristol University and a degree in Furniture Design from Hornsey College of Art, where she was awarded first class honours. She has an outstanding collection of plastic artefacts and plastics related ephemera and has published widely on the subject. Publications include Plastics: Designs and Materials, 1978; Classic Plastics, From Bakelite to High-Tech, 1986; Early Plastics, 1986, and The Conran Desgn Guides, co-authored with Jeremy Myerson, 1990.  She curated the exhibitions At Home with Plastics? and Radical Plastics at the Geffrye Museum, 2001.  She worked at the Design Council, London, for over ten years and currently runs the annual IOM3/Horners Company Design Innovation in Plastics Award for UK students.
Brenda Keneghan has worked as a Polymer Scientist in the Conservation Department of the Victoria & Albert Museum since 1993. She has undertaken extensive condition surveys of objects made from plastic among the various collections of the Museum and for other institutions including the National Trust.  She has lectured on the RCA/V&A MA course in Conservation and on various courses at West Dean College.  Her research includes the degradation and treatment of synthetic polymeric materials. She organised the successful 2007 international conference on plastics and played a major role in the soon to be completed European project POPART: Preservation Of Plastic Artefacts in museums, which is the first EU project dealing with the conservation of plastic objects in collections.
Mark Suggitt has a degree in History, a Masters in Museology and is a Fellow of the Museums Association. He wrote his MA thesis on early plastics and has a particular interest in modern design. He has published widely and was co-author of Gadgets and necessities, an encyclopedia of household innovations, 2000. Mark was Head of Bradford Museums & Galleries (2002-2008), Director of St Albans Museums (1995-2002) and Assistant Director of Yorkshire & Humberside Museums Council (1987-1995). He was also Keeper of Social History at York Castle Museum (1983-1987). He has been a Board member of the Museums Association, ICOM UK and chair of the Social History Curators Group and the Museum Professionals Group. He is currently Director of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
Colin Williamson is a plastician – an enthusiast for plastics. He has worked in plastics recycling for 25 years and 20 years ago established Smile Plastics Ltd, which he still runs as Managing Director. Smile Plastics pioneered the production of aesthetically pleasing sheets and boards from diverse plastic waste from carrier bags to children’s wellies. He was founder chairman of the UK trade association for plastics recycling companies and has sat on many advisory bodies considering the eco-aspects of plastics. He is also an authority on the manufacture and development of early plastics. He has built up an outstanding collection of plastic artefacts and is a renowned lecturer in the field. He is a founder of the Plastics Historical Society and co-edited Plastics collecting and conserving, 1999.


  1. Hi
    Visit my blog about sustainable design, thanks.

    1. Thank you. In this respect you may be interested to know about a symposium, Futureproof Plastics, we held last year. You can find out about it and hear the papers here:

      Susan Lambert, Head of MoDiP