At the end of May the Plastics Heritage Congress, a three-day international conference, was held at the Museu Nacionale dos Coches, Lisbon, Portugal. The theme of the conference was History, Limits and Possibilities and attracted delegates from all over the world, including the USA, Australia, Africa, and all over Europe.
The keynote lecture by Jeffrey Meikle was particularly interesting to me as his book American Plastic: A Cultural History plays a vital role in my PhD research.
All of the three days were split into two streams and it was difficult to choose between which talks to attend because they all sounded fascinating.
On the Wednesday, I chaired a session entitled Museums, Collections and Archives and introduced papers presented by Cancy Chu, University of Melbourne, on the Impact of plastics on archives; Vitězslav Knotek, University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague, on the Identification and degradation of cinematographic films with magnetic audio track; and Masahiko Tsukada, Tokyo University of the Arts, on the Material analysis of animation cels produced in early 1990s before the digital era. All of which looked at the analysis of the materials used and considered how they might be stored.
On the Thursday, the papers were focused on conservation and cleaning techniques and concluded with a coach trip to a museum in Leiria in central Portugal to view an exhibition about plastics. I will write another blog post all about the exhibition and the objects included.
On the last day, I presented a paper entitled Making Connections: the development of relationships between museum visitors and objects of historic polymeric materials which was received favourably. In addition, alongside Katherine Curran, Suzan de Groot, Ruth Keller, Maria Joao Melo, and Geoffrey Mitchell, academics from across Europe, I judged the poster entries and awarded the prizes.
One of the speakers on the Friday was Mariele Neudecker, talking about her MoDiP project Plastic Vanitas.
It was nice to see the image below on one of Mariele’s slides showing my colleagues, Pam Langdown and Katherine Pell, alongside two students who worked with Mariele on her project. The student on the left side of the image, Leo Gauvain, sadly lost his life when he returned to Bangkok after completing his degree in photography at the AUB. The team at MoDiP were very sorry to hear about this tragedy.
Through-out the three days, I learnt a lot about all kinds of plastics materials, from Gutta Percha, a material derived from tree sap, to Carbolite, a Russian version of the more commonly known Bakelite, and met some great people working on some amazing projects.
Louise Dennis, Curator of MoDiP