Wednesday 27 April 2022

MoDiP’s large objects.

We have a number of large objects within the collection that are too big to fit into our museum display cases. This means that we are rarely able to display them within our exhibition programme, but it doesn’t mean that they are never used. One such example is our wonderful Hawker Sea Fury cockpit canopy (refer image below).

Image ref: The Hawker Sea Fury cockpit canopy (left) and on open display at TheGallery (right).
Image credit: MoDiP

Thermoformed from a single piece of polymethyl methacrylate, also known as acrylic, the canopy came into the museum in 2018, having travelled all the way down to Bournemouth from National Museums Scotland. Almost immediately we were able to include it within a collaborative exhibition with TheGallery entitled ‘Dazzle & the Art of Defence’ and since then it has generated quite a bit of interest from aviation enthusiasts. It is currently on loan to the touring exhibition, ‘Plastic: Remaking Our World’, where it will be on display at the Vitra Design Museum in Germany until October 2022 before going back to Scotland to the V&A Dundee followed by the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology in Lisbon for March 2023. This object just keeps clocking up the miles!

Another example is the lovely Zanussi Oz fridge (refer image below).

Image ref: The Zanussi Oz fridge.
Image credit: MoDiP

Designed by Roberto Pezzetta and reaction injection moulded (RIM) in polyurethane, both the casing and interior are made from the same material, making end-of-life recycling much easier. It has a distinctive curved outline with a roller ball on the base of the door and was chosen by AUB modelmaking student Lydia Rogers for a project to explore the differences between traditional modelmaking, compared to rapid prototyping, techniques. Her 1:4 scale model (refer image below) was really beautiful and was shortlisted for an industry award at #newblades2019.

Image credit: The 1:4 scale model (left) and on display at New Blades (right).
Image ref: Lydia Rogers

Sometimes, if we cannot display the entire object, it is possible to feature parts of it instead, to illustrate a specific point. This was achieved with the Magic Crib Giuli for the Design for Childhood exhibition. Designed by Lara Grana for Ecobabydesign, the crib is transparent so that the parents can observe their child without having to approach, and thereby potentially disturb, what was a sleeping baby! Laser cut in polymethyl methacrylate again, it is suitable for up to age 6 months when it can then be transformed into a different piece of furniture: a desk or a bookshelf. The separate pieces all slot together so there is no need for screws or glue. Ingenious!

Image ref: The Magic Crib Giuli
Image credit: MoDiP

We have two fabulous bicycles that have not yet managed to get into an exhibition, although we are having a think about doing something to celebrate the Tour of Britain when this prestigious cycling race visits our local area later this year. The Pinarello FP2 Carbon 105 Team Sky 2010 bicycle (on the left in the image below) and the classic Itera bike from Volvo (on the right) are both very distinctive plastics bicycles; one extremely light and the other very heavy!

Image ref: The Pinarello (left) and Itera (right) bicycles.
Image credit: MoDiP

There are lots of other large objects we would love to acquire if only we had both the space to store them and the budget to purchase! Top of our wish list would probably be a Futuro, the iconic 1960s prefab house that looks like a flying saucer, designed by Matti Suuronenan and made from glass-reinforced plastics. Next would have to be a Concorde nose cone and if anyone has one they would like to donate, I’ve got my eye on a nice piece of lawn outside the museum where we could custom-build an external case, just like the one in the image below!!

Image ref: A Concorde nose cone up for auction in 2019.
Image credit:

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer

Wednesday 20 April 2022

Earth Day 2022

With Earth Day coming up on April 22, MoDiP has a session today with students from our Creative Writing course in support of Dr Kevan Manwaring’s ‘Writing the Earth’ Programme. 

Many discussions across the world this week will explore the negative impacts that plastics and the products they are made into can have on the environment.  These discussions are extremely valid especially when we see the horrific amounts of detritus that clog our water ways and can be seen in overflowing waste heaps across the globe.  I am certainly not going to counter the opinions that such waste should not be in our seas, streets, or countryside, but I will be exploring with the students some of the interesting ways designers and manufacturers use plastics in a more thoughtful, and sustainable way.  As with much of the activity of the museum I will be acknowledging the negative impact the poor use and disposal of plastics materials has on the environment, and show how valuable plastics, as a materials group, can be when used appropriately.

Plastics are a group of materials that have no inherent shape, colour, or texture.  The amazing thing about them is that they can become anything we want them to be.  They are celebrated for having a long life.  At the same time, they are vilified for having a long life when they are in the wrong place.  Nobody wants to see waste (of any kind) in our seas, on our beaches, in our streets.  Plastics are particularly highlighted as a waste issue because they are so visible.  They are light in weight and often colourful, and so can be easily seen floating in water, blowing in the wind, and caught in trees as litter.

The overuse of plastics has its origins in the early twentieth century, where disposability, and the notion of using something once and then throwing it away grew to become a sign of wealth and cleanliness.  In the West, consumers were encouraged to use disposable products for their efficiency and to avoid contamination.  The ideas of purification and convenience encouraged the development of ethical justifications for the use of disposable items.  It will take time to change human behaviours - whether as designers, manufacturers, or consumers.


Much of the issue with plastics is that they are seen as ‘cheap’ materials that are made into ‘cheap’, throw away products.  This is exacerbated by the use of plastics to create single-use products, particularly packaging, which has little or no perceived value.  This is because it is not our intention to purchase the packaging; only the product inside it.  Consumers do not readily see that investment has been made into the research and development of the packaging, that it has a material cost, and it has value in its function - to contain and / or protect the contents.  If we were more readily able to recognise the value of such products, we would be more inclined to maintain that value within a circular system.

One way of showing value is by creating objects that are well designed and highly desirable.  This is demonstrated in our current exhibition, Why plastics?, in our Affordable case.  The relative cheapness of mass-produced plastics objects means that well-designed and well-made, fashionable or timeless products can be acquired by a wider demographic of consumers. From the 1940s, European companies placed significant investment into the production of quality objects, made of materials that were fit for purpose. The ‘good design’ concept developed by the Council of Industrial Design (CoID) was adopted by the British plastics industry to bring simple but functional products to the British public. During this time some plastics firms set up their own design studios to create objects that were well conceived and used the materials at their disposal to the best of their abilities. Well regarded designers included A.H. ‘Woody’ Woodfull for British Industrial Plastics, David Harman Powell for Ranton & Co, and Martyn Rowlands for IMI Opella. As time went on other companies, such as Habitat and Ikea, have used designers and design studios to bring ‘good design’ in plastics to the masses.

Designs by Woody Woodfull (AIBDC : 008014), David Harman Powell (AIBDC : 007869.2), Martyn Rowlands (AIBDC : 003367.1), and for Habitat (AIBDC : 008800), and Ikea (AIBDC : 006166.1).  Image credit: MoDiP.

With Bournemouth beach being popular with families, we see lots of beach toys being left behind; because they can be purchased so cheaply, they are seen as lacking in value.  A local initiative set up by an AUB MA student enables people to borrow toys rather than buying a cheap bucket and discarding it.

Image Credit MoDiP -

An alternative to borrowing is to ‘buy once and buy well’.  If you acquire objects that you would not want to leave behind, you are more likely to make sure it goes home with you.  And when your children have outgrown the toy, it will still be in good condition and be desirable enough to be handed on to other families.  The Ekobo sand toys are a case in point.  They are beautifully made using recycled sawdust from a chopstick factory in a bio-based resin meaning they are desirable, durable but also biodegradable.

Sand toys by Ekobo (AIBDC : 008195.2, AIBDC : 008195.3, AIBDC : 008195.1, AIBDC : 008196). Image credit: MoDiP.


If the facilities, such as good bin provision, are available and the consumer or manufacturer is willing, all plastics have the capability to be recycled. Some materials are more easily reprocessed than others, and it becomes more complicated when multiple materials are used in combination, either through lamination or separate componentry.

The simplest materials to recycle are the thermoplastics, those which can be shredded, melted, and reprocessed. Other plastics materials, the thermosets, have to be ground or chipped to be reused. The latter is a more laborious process and as such is seldom done.

There are many factors which make it difficult to recycle plastics materials. If a material is dark in colour, the resulting recyclate also has to be dark. To counter this, Coca-Cola changed its iconic green Sprite bottle to clear in 2019, and Dai Nippon Printing use an external, removable film to provide colour to their clear bottles.

Sprite bottles (AIBDC : 008416.1AIBDC : 008416.2), Awanama Sake bottles (AIBDC : 008379.1AIBDC : 008379.2).  Image credit: MoDiP.


Recycling uses energy and other resources, as such the most sustainable way to maintain the most material value in a product is to reuse it.  As mentioned previously plastics materials are durable and this means that they make great products for reuse.  The robustness of some plastics materials makes reusable drinks bottles and lunch boxes safe and reliable and means that we can avoid single-use alternatives.

eau good bottle (AIBDC : 007138), Kokeshi Hanako bento box (AIBDC : 007761), Stackable lunch box (AIBDC : 007763), Gumtech coffee cup (AIBDC : 007951). Image credit: MoDiP.

Alternative feedstocks and materials

Most plastics as we know them are made from fossil-fuels which are finite resources.  Although the production of plastics only uses 4% of the world’s oil production, with the rest being used for energy, transport, and heat, manufacturers have for some time been experimenting with alternative, plant-based, feedstocks. Plant materials including cornstarch, needles from pine trees, algae, and wood are harvestable, with some growing very quickly, therefore they provide a more sustainable raw material with an almost limitless supply.

Innocent bottle (AIBDC : 005703), Kupilka 55 bowl (AIBDC : 007498), Ultra Bloom shoes (AIBDC : 008116), Toy Seaplane (AIBDC : 008176). Image credit: MoDiP.

Plant-based materials, also known as bioplastics, need careful consideration within the wider production context of water, chemical and land use all of which have an environmental impact. The end of their life requires careful consideration too. Products made of bioplastics are not always biodegradable.  If they are compostable, they often need industrial conditions. If they degrade within a recycling system they can undermine and weaken the resulting recyclate, and in landfill they can produce methane, a greenhouse gas, as they breakdown.

Other alternative materials for the creation of new products can come from materials that are already in existence.  The Airpaq bag, for example, makes use of reclaimed materials such as car airbags and seat belts.  The skateboard and rash guard use recycled fishing nets, either before they are discarded into the sea or those that have been reclaimed from the oceans where they are described as ghost nets which continue catching fish and other marine life.  The gumdrop uses recycled chewing gum and attempts to prevent a source of waste from looking unsightly on our streets.

Airpaq bag (AIBDC : 008171), Minnow skateboard (AIBDC : 007963), Solange rash guard (AIBDC : 008185), Gumdrop bin (AIBDC : 007949). Image credit: MoDiP.

Waste reduction

Many of the sustainable aspects of plastics products are derived from their durability and recyclability. However, one property that enables them to have a positive environmental impact, but one that is often overlooked, is that they are lightweight. In terms of packaging, by being light in weight, plastics products take up less space and require less fuel than heavier materials like glass, for example, in transportation. Plastics packaging also helps to reduce losses and damaged contents, therefore preventing food waste. The relative lightness in weight, when used in car parts, saves on average over the lifetime of the standard car, 3000 litres of fuel.   

Celebrations tub (AIBDC : 005907), Original Source pouch (AIBDC : 005924), Smart car wheel arch (AIBDC : 006115).  Image credit: MoDiP.

The Bodyflik is a squeegee which scrapes off excess water from your body after washing.  It was designed to reduce the amount of water absorbed by a bath towel meaning the towel would dry more quickly and need changing less often.  This helps to reduce household gas and electricity bills.  The Jar Tops divert glass jars from landfill or the recycling process by giving them a second life.

Bodyflik (AIBDC : 005910), Jar Tops (AIBDC : 005916).  Image credit: MoDiP.

Doing good

Plastics can be used to play important environmentally supportive roles.  Fence booms are used as an emergency response, or for long term deployment, to contain oil spills or debris, in calm or sheltered waters such as harbours, rivers and ponds.  By containing a spill, the boom prevents more of the environment from being affected by the contaminant.

The sustainability of the modern commercial fishing industry is affected by the discarding of excess catch due to fishing quotas and bycatch. The Pisces and the ProGlow use LED light to influence fish behaviour.  Both examples are housed within a robust polycarbonate case that can withstand the pressures of deep water. Pisces illuminates the fishing net and emits six different colours to either attract or repel specific species. The ProGlow is a cheap and reusable alternative to single-use glow sticks that are environmentally damaging when thrown overboard at end-of-life; it is estimated that 700 million end up in the oceans every year.

One day in 2020 saw 22 tonnes of rubbish removed, by the council, from Bournemouth and Poole beaches after half a million people visited the area. Beach goers left behind food packaging, disposable barbeques, buckets, spades, toys, clothing, beach shelters, and other equipment. Ideally all visitors to the seaside would take responsibility for the rubbish they generate. Alternatively, to stop this litter getting into the environment, many charities and groups, including the 2 Minute Beach Clean, Keep Britain Tidy, Surfers Against Sewage, Dorset Devils, and many more, organise beach cleans, where individuals are encouraged to come together and remove the debris.  Many plastics products are used to gather and take away the rubbish including refuse bags.  A reusable alternative is the 4Ocean Beach Bag and Cleanup Tote with its mesh material which allows sand and water to drain out keeping it lightweight and easy to carry.

Fence boom section (AIBDC : 008199), Pisces light (AIBDC : 008603), ProGlow (AIBDC : 008601), 4Ocean Beach bag and cleanup tote (AIBDC : 008678). Image credit: MoDiP.

Louise Dennis

Curator of MoDiP

Wednesday 13 April 2022

Record and cassette rack, Conran Associates, c.1977-1990

Following on from my blog post about the Input range, designed by Conran Associates, manufactured by Crayonne Ltd (a subsidiary of Airfix Plastics set up in 1972) and sold through Habitat stores, this week’s post introduces some additional pieces from the series: the LP record and cassette racks (AIBDC : 008861.1-9).

Image ref: MoDiP’s 7 record and 2 cassette storage racks.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

The fan-shaped record rack was designed to store up to 36 LP’s (12” records) with three, graduated internal segments, whilst the matching cassette rack could hold 14 standard cassettes on one side, plus an additional 14 on the other. Sold in a variety of colours, the racks were interchangeable and by turning through 90°, different decorative effects could be achieved.

Image ref: The record rack front side at the top and rear side below.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Image ref: The cassette rack.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

I think the styling is reminsicent of art-deco with the sleek curves of the record rack bringing to mind the roof of the Chrysler Building in New York (or is that just me?). The 1977 Habitat catalogue describes them as: ‘made in scratch-resistant thermoplastics and highly polished so the cream looks like ivory, the black like ebony, and the red like an antique Chinese lacquer’. MoDiP has nine pieces in red, orange, beige, brown, black, grey and white.

Accelerating inflation during the 1970s was reflected in the prices that Habitat charged its customers for these beautiful pieces, starting at £2.25 in 1977 and peaking at £6.95 within a decade! By 1985 it appears that the racks were only available in monochrome black and white.































I can find very little information about them, such as who specifically within Conran Associates actually designed them. Was it Martin Roberts, who was responsible for the Input range of 21 brightly coloured, mix and match storage containers? I understand he had emigrated to the US by 1975 which I believe may slightly pre-date these. The Habitat catalogues simply refer to the racks as part of its extended, award-winning, Crayonne range. If anyone can add anything to the story, please let us know.

Image ref: Advert from the 1978/79 Habitat catalogue, AIBDC : 0­_1168.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

I really do love MoDiP’s examples: they look great all displayed together in an assortment of colours and are well designed pieces of furniture that would elevate anyone’s music collection.
Katherine Pell
Collections Officer

Wednesday 6 April 2022

Hand fans

In today’s blog post I wanted to talk not only about a MoDiP object but also about two pieces that I own.

Image ref: AIBDC : 006201
Image credit: MoDiP

This beautiful object is a decorated brise fan. The scene appears to be Georgian/Regency but it’s not actually that old – we believe it is a modern fan dating from around the 1950s -1970s.

The term ‘Brise’ comes from France and translates into ‘broken’. It has only been used to describe these particular types of folding fans from the early 20th century. The sticks on the fan are often carved or pierced and held together by a ribbon/fabric that is glued to each stick or threaded through pierced openings. The earliest examples came from China and Japan and were exported into Europe from the 1800s. They were typically made from wood and ivory and soon European copies started to appear in natural plastics materials such as horn and tortoiseshell. MoDiP has some examples of these too; two are shown in the image below.

Image ref: WCHL : 422 and 423
Image credit: MoDiP

I am interested in fans because they are objects I can connect to personally. I inherited the two I own from my grandmother which I used to play with when I was a small child. I would dance around the garden holding the white fan pictured below, on the right.

Image ref: My two fans.
Image credit: Reanna Butcher

They are Spanish fans, also known as ‘peric√≥n’, traditionally used for many occasions but predominantly for the Flamenco dance. They became very popular in the mid-late twentieth century as souvenirs and Spain is the country most associated with hand fans today.
Reanna Butcher
Museum Assistant