Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Plasticidade – A history of plastics in Portugal

As part of the Plastics Heritage Congress which I attended at the end of May, I got to visit the Museum de Leiria - a beautiful museum in the old building of the Convento de Santo Agostinho.  Plasticidade is a play on the word plasticity eg. Plasti-City to show the link the city of Leiria has with the plastics industry.

The exhibition resulted from a partnership between the Municipality of Leiria and the research project ‘The Triumph of Bakelite – Contributions for a History of Plastics in Portugal’, developed at the Interuniversity Centre for the History of Science and Technology – Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon and funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology – FCT.
The exhibition looked at the production of the plastics as well as the objects it has become.  One of the objects on display that really piqued my interest, was a hand-operated injection moulding machine from 1947.

After the display about the production of plastics objects, the exhibition was organised by decade, starting with the 1930s, and displayed the types of objects that were typical from each era.

I was particularly intrigued by the bread bin on the left of the image below from the 1950s / 1960s, as it was very reminiscent of a container we have in the MoDiP collection.

Despite being a celebration of plastics and the resultant objects, the exhibition did not shy away from the problems that plastics can cause to the environment when they are not disposed of correctly.  The use of plastic particles in a container of sand was very clever, as was the map showing the currents of the seas.

The exhibition came to a close with a thought about the future use of plastics and an image of the Jiggs pBone from the MoDiP collection.

It is great to see how other museums are engaging with plastics.  It was particularly nice to see a celebration of the material family, especially as it is in such a fabulous location.
A fellow delegate did remark that this exhibition was the second they had visited in an ex nunnery / convent building in a matter of weeks – the other being the Bow Arts Raw Materials exhibition at the Nunnery Gallery.
Both exhibitions are definitely worth a visit.
Louise Dennis, Curator of MoDiP

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