Articles, Preservation

Identifying Plastics

I attended a session on Plastics today during the virtual AIC Annual Meeting, the professional association for conservators and preservation specialists. Netherland conservators Carien van Aubel and Olivia van Rooijen introduced the Plastic Identification Tool, an absolutely fantastic resource to aid inventory and condition assessment of collections.

Libraries, archives, museums and private collections may have a wide range of materials, each with their own methods of self-destruction and concomittant special storage and exhibit needs. Artworks, textiles, furniture, artifacts – all may have plastic components which may not have been identified during accession and which need to be assessed and monitored for deterioration. Some varieties of plastic can extremely vulnerable to damage from light, temperature and humidity, and may require very specific preservation strategies and housings to mitigate damage to the object itself or to nearby artifacts. Damage may present as color change, odor, sticky or pooling plasticizers, or changes in flexibility. An objects conservator may be required to accurately identify materials and conservation priorities, but a preservation consultant (like me!) can assist in developing and carrying out a condition survey.