When plastics were first made available to the public in the 1950s, they were considered unique, special and everlasting materials. Plastics manufacturers promised that the material would change our lives, providing cheaper and more functional alternatives for our daily necessities. This has proven to be correct, but the effects have been both positive and negative. Medical plastics have increased the quality of our lives while pollution from synthesizing and disposing of plastics has had the opposite effect. This lecture examined the historical development of plastics and what it means for these materials to be part of our heritage. The relative short lifespans of plastics have challenged artists, collectors, conservators and scientists. How do we preserve plastics? What are the unique challenges of working with plastics? This lecture discussed how we can study plastics and find solutions for preserving the material for future generations.

Dr Yvonne Shashoua

Dr Yvonne Shashoua, Senior Researcher at National Museum of Denmark

After graduating with a degree in industrial chemistry, Yvonne worked as a paint technologist before joining the British Museum as a conservation scientist. She relocated to the National Museum of Denmark in 1998 to specialize in the degradation and conservation of plastics. She has more than 90 publications in this field including a monograph ‘Conservation of plastics-materials science, degradation and preservation’, published by Elsevier. Yvonne was coordinator of the ICOM Modern Materials and Contemporary Art working group for two triennials up until 2008. In 2012, she was a Getty Conservation Institute scholar researching the effectiveness of adsorbents for cellulose acetate film.

20TH January 2016
Opening Remarks
Lecture on ‘Plastics: The dream of the 20th Century or the nightmare
of the 21st Century?’ by Dr Yvonne Shashoua, Senior Researcher at
National Museum of Denmark
Q&A Session