We all know that one of the properties plastics are renowned - or notorious - for depending on the point of view, is their hardy everlastingness. In most cases plastics, to paraphrase a slogan, are forever.
Which is why it comes as something of an eye-opener to read about a project that is currently ongoing at, among other museums, the Van Abbemuseum of modern and contemporary art in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
Introduced under the headline “New Research Project on the Identification and Conservation of Plastics in the Netherlands (2017-2019), the Plastics Project brings together conservation scientists and no less than ten major museums and curators in the Netherlands, who are working to preserve the numerous plastics artefacts in the museums' collections.
Apparently, the museums lack the specialist knowledge needed to identify the material composition of the objects – a lack the Plastics Project aims to fill. The idea is that by adopting a collective approach, plastic collections will be maintained in a proper way and knowledge will be secured within the organisations.
A do-it-yourself method will be developed by which means administrators and conservators will learn to identify a large part of their plastic collections themselves ‘on the job', to monitor them and take appropriate measures for preventive conservation with as aim to improve the sustainability, visibility and accessibility of objects made of plastic.
In addition, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) is training two junior professionals who will become specialists in this field.
Art, they say is in the eye of the beholder, and in this case the context is key. Efforts to preserve plastic that may seem heroic in a museum, may seem nothing short of heretical to an environmentalist.
There are very few materials that have raised so much debate and controversy over the years as plastic. Loved and reviled, it has nonetheless become an integral part of daily life and culture, as well as popular with contemporary artists and designers, whose works tend to confront us with or reflect who we are. Which, whatever one's view of plastics, surely deserves to be protected?
The project started last year and will run until April 2019.