Conservation of Plastics (Brisbane)

Condition surveys of plastics in art, design, modern history, industrial and toy collections conclude that 75% exhibit degradation and need either inhibitive conservation to slow their rate of degradation or invasive treatment to clean, stabilise or strengthen them. Before developing a conservation strategy, it is essential to identify the major factors and pathway of degradation and the properties of the problem plastic using an informed approach.

This four-day course is divided equally into both theoretical and practical sessions. Conservation of Plastics will enable participants to identify the major families of polymers in cultural collections and the most problematic additives, understand the causes of degradation in the common plastics types and to recognise and monitor their symptoms in objects. The state of the art for preventive conservation will be discussed and include the latest research on the effectiveness of activated carbon, silica gel and zeolites. Through practical work, participants will also learn and practice the least damaging techniques to clean and adhere plastics, the most frequent invasive treatments required for plastics in museums. Samples of degraded plastics will be available to investigate.

Participants are strongly encouraged to bring objects or images of objects to the course for discussion.

The course is suitable for conservators, conservation scientists, curators and collection managers who have an interest in, but not necessarily experience of plastics. Notes and a reading list will be provided.

About the presenter:

Yvonne Shashoua is a Senior Researcher at the National Museum of Denmark investigating the degradation and conservation of plastics.  After graduating in industrial chemistry she worked as a paint technologist for Berger Paints in England. She joined the British Museum as a conservation scientist in 1988, specialising in the deterioration reactions and conservation of cellulose nitrate, cellulose acetate and rubber from 1995. Yvonne relocated to Denmark in 1998 when offered a PhD scholarship in the degradation pathways and conservation of plasticized PVC at the Danish Technical University and National Museum.  She has more than 80 publications including a monograph ´Conservation of Plastics – materials science, degradation and preservation´ published by Elsevier in 2008.  Yvonne was coordinator of International Council of Museums – Committee for Conservation´s working group Modern Materials and Contemporary Art until 2008. She researched cleaning of plastics as part of the collaborative EU 7th Framework Research project POPART (Preservation of Plastics Artefacts in Museums) between 2008 and 2012. Between January and July 2012, she was a Getty Conservation Institute scholar researching the effectiveness of adsorbents for cellulose acetate film. Current active research interests include the stability of bioplastics,the application of nanomaterials to clean and consolidate modern artworks and the transfer of knowledge of plastics in museums to plastics in the environment.