PLASTICS: Plastics Lifetimes Are Short: They need Identification, Conservation, & Storage

The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works, in partnership with the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, Omaha, Nebraska presents a “Current Topics” Workshop

June 8 - 12, 2009

Thea van Oosten, Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN)
Yvonne Shashoua, National Museum of Denmark

At the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center,
Omaha, Nebraska
Monday, June 8 through Friday, June 12, 2009; 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Mon-Thurs; 9-1 Friday

Course Fee: $600 AIC members; $900 non-members
This program is supported by the FAIC Endowment for Professional Development; without this support, the registration fee would be $1,410.
Enrollment Limit: 16
Registration Deadline: May 1, 2009 (or until course is filled).

Selection of participants will be based on the following criteria: order of receipt of registration; extent of professional experience and training; balance of institutional and private practice conservators; number of registrants from a single organization; preference will be given to current Fellow and Professional Associate members of AIC. Training in basic chemistry is required. Early registration is advised.

Course Description
Lectures, demonstrations, and laboratory sessions will introduce participants to identification of plastics, physical and chemical qualities, causes and appearance of deterioration, preventive and active conservation measures, and issues such as handling and marking. Participants are encouraged to bring plastics objects or their pictures to the course to discuss their degradation and suitable treatments.

This course aims to acquaint object and sculpture conservators with the current state of knowledge regarding identification, degradation, preventive care, and conservation of three-dimensional plastics and rubbers, as well as of composite objects. It will also include a section on health and safety. There will be an emphasis on practical preventive conservation of plastics and rubbers as well as discussion about the challenges of active conservation. This course will relate the theory of physical and chemical breakdown of major plastics components (polymer and additives) to the practical aspects of conserving these materials. Although the emphasis will be on three-dimensional objects rather than conservation of films of synthetic paints and adhesives, conservators from other disciplines are welcome to attend. The course is most suitable for professionals with practical experience in conservation and who have a grounding in organic or polymer chemistry.

Plastics and rubbers are found in a variety of collections: historic, ethnographic, scientific and medical, clothes and toys, design, as well as contemporary and recycled art. Most museums have these materials in their collections and the amount will increase over the years. Despite the growing need, this course on the conservation of plastics is one of the first of its kind to be offered in the U.S.

Thea Van Oosten has been employed since 1975 as a conservation scientist at the Central Laboratory for Objects of Art and Science (CRL) which is now Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN). In 1980 she took an eight year’s leave, completing a master in analytical chemistry at the University of Amsterdam and teaching conservation science at the Reinwardt Academy in Amsterdam, the training program for Museology.

In 1988, she started work again at the CRL at the conservation research department as senior conservation scientist, specializing in Fourier transform (FTIR) infrared spectroscopy. In 1989 she started the research program on modern materials and has been developing that ever since. She has contributed to several publications and books, such as ‘Plastics, Collecting and Conserving’ and ‘Plastics in Art’. She disseminates knowledge and experience by teaching courses and workshops and giving lectures on this topic both in the Netherlands and abroad. She was involved in several International research projects, supported either by the European Union or by industry and business, dealing with modern, contemporary art and design conservation topics. She is currently teaching conservation of plastics at the University of Amsterdam, and in various workshops around the world. She is also member of modern materials conservation students’ exam committees in the Netherlands and in Germany.

In 1992, she joined the historical plastics research scientist working group (HPRSWG) founded by English conservations scientists. A member of IIC-NL since 1988, she has been a board member of IIC- Netherlands Group from 1994 –1998 and in this capacity was responsible for the organization of special one day conferences and workshops. She was appointed to the preprints committee for the IIC conference, “Modern Art - New Museums,” in Bilbao, Spain, 2004.

As a member of ICOM-CC since 1993, she has been active in ICOM-CC contributing papers and served as assistant coordinator of the ICOM-CC working group on modern materials from 1996 till 1999. From 1999 until 2005, she was coordinator of this Working Group. In this period the working group organized, together with the University of Applied Arts in Cologne, the successful interim meeting in 2001, which resulted in the publication of the book, Plastics in Art. Since September 2005 she has been a member of the Directory Board of ICOM-CC.

Yvonne Shashoua is a Senior Researcher at the National Museum of Denmark investigating the degradation mechanisms and conservation processes for plastic materials and has more than 60 publications in this area. Yvonne was the Coordinator of ICOM-CC Modern Materials and Contemporary Art Working Group between 2005 and 2008. She took a first degree in Industrial Chemistry before working as an industrial polymer technologist for Berger Paints in England. She joined the British Museum as a conservation scientist in 1988, specializing in the deterioration reactions and conservation of cellulose nitrate, cellulose acetate, and rubber objects after 1993. In 1998, she was offered a Ph.D. scholarship to research into the deterioration reactions associated with plasticized PVC at the National Museum of Denmark and Danish Polymer Centre, The Technical University of Denmark. The thesis, Inhibiting the Deterioration of Plasticized Poly (vinyl chloride), was completed in September 2001. Yvonne is the author of the book, Conservation of Plastics-materials science, degradation and preservation, published by Butterworths in the Black Series in July 2008.

Yvonne has taught polymer chemistry, and degradation and conservation of plastics at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels to chemists, conservators, and administrators since 1998. She teaches 4 day courses regularly at the Royal Danish School of Conservation; EVTEK Institute of Art and Design in Finland, Norway; and Department of Building Heritage, University of Gotland, Sweden. Yvonne has both taught and consulted at the Heritage Conservation Centre in Singapore and the Institute of Archaeology in Oslo, Norway.

This program is funded in part by a grant from the
National Endowment for the Humanities

Additional funding from the FAIC Endowment for Professional Development,
which is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
and by contributions from members and friends of the
American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works.

Special Thanks to Julie Reilly
and the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center

SACI Florence