Friday 31 March 2017

Guess the object

MoDiP has the kind of collection that you may think you are very familiar with. We have objects which we all use every day, and some pieces which are more unusual.

By looking at this distorted image are you able to guess what the object is? What do you think it could be used for?

Post your answer in the comments below or to find the answer click here and you will be taken to the MoDiP catalogue.

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Monday 27 March 2017

BXL photographic archive #0122

In 2010, MoDiP was donated a large archive of images relating to a single company. Bakelite Xylonite Ltd, also known as British Xylonite Ltd or BXL, was possibly one of the first British firms to successfully manufacture a plastics material in commercial quantities. The company was established in 1875 and after a long history went into liquidation in the late 2000s. The images we have in the collection are concentrated around the 1960s through to the 1980s and show us glimpses of the manufacturing process, products and the company’s employees during this time. We plan to share an image each week to give a flavour of the archive. If you want to see more you can view the whole collection on our website.

This week’s image shows bottles being packed at Plenmeller factory.

To get a better view of the image and find out more have a look at it on our website

We are still working on the documentation of the archive, some of the images we know more about than others. It would be fantastic if we could fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge, if you know anything about the company or specific images it would be good to hear from you.

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Friday 24 March 2017

Did you know? #58

Did you know that all of our past exhibitions are available online?

Precious plastics?

The jewellery on display here, from the collections of MoDiP, the Plastics Historical Society and the Worshipful Company of Horners spans five centuries, from the intricately hand carved horn comb dated 1694 to the 21st century acrylic creations and 3D printed pieces.

So, do you think of plastics as a throw-away, transient commodity or as a material of beauty and value?

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Monday 20 March 2017

A different view #52

There are many ways to look at the objects in the MoDiP collection.  With this series of posts I want to highlight the interesting views of objects that we may ordinarily miss.  These include the underside of an object, the surface pattern, or traces of manufacturing processes.

Title: Rabbit shaped jelly mould
Designer: Unknown
Manufacturer: Unknown
Object number: PHSL : 68

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Friday 17 March 2017

Symbiosis seminar

Venue: London Transport Museum 
Date: 14th February 2017


We had a very busy day facilitating the Symbiosis seminar at the London Transport Museum. The day was filled with vibrant discussion on how museums should interact with industry.

The seminar was very well attended with 19 delegates from a range of museums as listed below:

  • Silk Museum, Macclesfield
  • Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture
  • The Hat Works – Hatting Museum
  • Queens and PWRR Regiment Museum
  • The Port Sunlight Village Trust
  • Village Church Farm
  • Museum of Carpet
  • The Georgian Theatre Royal
  • British Optical Association Museum
  • Ramsey Rural Museum
  • The Bursledon Brickworks
  • The Food Museum
  • Kingston Museum
  • Alexandra Palace and Park Charitable Trust
  • Museum of Design in Plastics
The meeting was opened by Daniel Cox, Knowledge Exchange Manager at the University of Arts Bournemouth. A round the table introduction was made by each delegate outlining the museum that they represented and the outcomes they were looking to gain from the day.

Professor Susan Lambert, Curator of the Museum of Design in Plastics, made a presentation introducing the Symbiosis Project, which forms part of the Arts Council Museum Resilience Fund which is working towards the empowerment of smaller museums to develop effective collaborative projects with industry and hence become more commercially sustainable.

Susan explained the need for a step change in understanding the potential for knowledge exchange, the ability of staff to engage and the development of leadership skills in engaging with industry.

The project will involve a small number of partner museums who will explore how collaborative projects can support museum priorities, consider the barriers that are encountered and form their individual commercial offer to industry.

Susan explained how the programme will use the expertise of an industrial consultant, who will assist with the overcoming of barriers, help in understanding the commercial opportunities that are available and ultimately work with the museums in identifying their commercial offer.

The programme will start with the launch seminar and further dialogue will be made via telephone calls with the partner museums throughout the duration of the project. This activity will culminate in a masterclass lead by the industry consultant to discuss how the learning outcomes from the project can be transferred to other organisations.

The morning session continued with a very interesting presentation made by the London Transport Museum. They have a significant resource for engaging with relevant stakeholders in their sector, raising money through corporate membership and sponsorship, with support from trusts and foundations as well as public funding. A Patrons Circle and Friends membership has been developed to assist in fundraising activity and collaborative projects.

Other projects that were introduced included a return to work programme for the long term unemployed.

The presentation was very interesting in terms of how a larger museum approaches the aspect of fundraising and collaborations with various stakeholders.

During the day, a number breakout sessions were held during which several questions were put to the group as listed below:

1. How can museums benefit from engaging with business and industry in their sectors?

Prioritised responses:

  • Profile raising
  • Networking/building relationships
  • Donation of artefacts
  • Raising money
  • Meeting museum objectives
  • Collection of knowledge
  • Staffing/access to resource
  • Equipment, cutting edge
  • Increased relevance
  • Marketing capacity
  • Publicity
  • Future stability
  • Embedded in industry
  • Enthuse industry
  • Wider reach
  • Develop social history
  • Business archives/artefacts

2. What are your museum’s current priorities?

  • Engaging students and researchers /learning and education
  • Commercial development
  • Preserve and protect
  • Increase visitor numbers
  • Centre of expertise
  • Establish and maintain reputation for expertise and specialist knowledge
  • Accreditation
  • Providing inspired learning opportunities
  • Interpret social history
  • Maintain and make safe (machinery)
  • Income through space letting
  • Develop collection ad visitor experience
  • Sustainability / survival
  • Museum redevelopment
  • Community/adult programmes
  • Activity plan (educational/outreach)
  • Fulfilling objects of the trust
  • Fulfilling terms of grants.

3. What is your museum’s unique commercial offer?
  • Access to historical artefacts /collection/archives
  • Brand heritage/reputation preservation
  • Access to expert knowledge/consultancy
  • Showcase/selling opportunity
  • Use of buildings for weddings, parties etc.
  • Use of buildings/location for tv, films etc.
  • Licensing of images or collections
  • Unique heritage of television beginnings
  • Space letting opportunities
  • Enhancement of reputation through meaningful connections and networking

4. What are the barriers to engagement? 

  • Identify company and person/ how to approach
  • Lack of commercial/legal knowledge
  • Time
  • Competitors (other museums)
  • Corporate bureaucracy
  • Identifying the offer
  • Exploitation of the museum
  • Perceived lack of interest
  • Ensuring return on investment
  • Restrictions on engagement (funding guidelines)
  • The trustees (resource or barrier?)

5. What resources would you find useful in developing industry collaborations? 

  • To be able to practice the sales pitch and get feedback
  • Information on going rates for work, what should we charge?
  • Case studies (charges, long or short term)
  • How to develop an offer/think commercially
  • Advice on best medium to use for promotion (films, events)
  • Template of standard questions
  • Collaboration network

The questions raised created a great deal of debate amongst the group, this culminated in the delegates completing a feedback form detailing their reaction to the day

Jeremy Pingstone (Industry Consultant to the Symbiosis project)

Wednesday 15 March 2017

Rebecca Smith - Project progress

The project has gone into full making mode and a lot of research and testing has happened over the last few weeks. The first lampshade that I wanted to do was the large mushroom, as it would need the most time to cure as it will be made from concrete. The decision to use concrete for this particular shade is because of its curved and fluid look. Concrete is sometimes associated with harsh angles, and large bulky mass. This item will celebrate its diversity and ability to create beautiful and fluid curves.

The first stage of exploration was to research how these curves could be achieved, the shade would need to be thin enough that it could be placed on top of a stand, whilst being as lightweight as possible so it did not buckle the metal that separated it from the bulb. Once this research was done and equipment was sourced, the first tests were made. These were made using a white concrete mix, with no aggregate so a smooth finish could be obtained. Plastic bowls were used as moulds and three tests were done, experimenting with perforation and pattern. The outcomes were all successful, they were structurally sound and the shape achieved was exactly as desired. The patterned one did not come out as well as the concrete did not fill into all of the gaps, but the perforated one made the interplay of light very interesting.
Now that the tests are complete, a larger and more detailed shade is in the process of being made, along with a stand so it mimics the shape of the mushroom.

First concrete bowl experiment

The next shade to be made is the shell. This will be made out of oak veneer due to its flexibility and delicateness. This material will allow light to permeate through and create a warm light. The design for the shade takes elements from the plastic shade, but will be smaller in scale and will house the bulb differently. This is because of the nature of the material and close contact to a heat source may cause the veneer to scorch so to eliminate any problems, the shade will be used for a suspended light, allowing a constant flow of air through it.

Tests have been done looking at how to join the veneer without creating too much bulk. Using its application within architecture, a knowledge of how this material is connected to other materials has helped developed an understanding of its versatility as well as how fragile it is. These are considerations that have been thought out within the design.

Oak veneer for shell lampshade

The veneer came as a roll and due to its expense, the design has to ensure that there is minimum wastage. The first trial was using paper to work out dimensions and lengths needed. These were successful but there is still some work to be done to ascertain how these will be connected.

The project is constantly pushing my learning further and my knowledge of the materials and their qualities is being expanded on a weekly basis. The tests and research have been invaluable, especially with concrete, as each test can produce a different result, and so using these tests has enabled me to decide on a particular course of action for the final piece.
The other four shades have all been designed and the materials have been decided, they will use paper, copper, fabric and plaster. Taking time to look at the plastic shades within the MoDiP collection has helped understand their construction, and something that I did not expect was their fragility. Plastics are sometimes though to be robust and everlasting, but examining some of these shades highlights how delicate and easily broken they can become, and so using architectural materials, increasing the longevity of an item, has added another layer to the project.

Rebecca Smith (Student Creative)

Rebecca is a 2nd year BA (hons) Architecture student at the Arts University Bournemouth