Plastics: Looking at the Future And Learning From the Past Ed. Keneghan
This volume of postprints of a conference held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, is intended as a marker in the sand, a record of current perceptions and considerations of plastics within museum collections. Artists' concepts of plastic as a medium, and their views of aging and decay, challenge museum ethics. The dichotomy between an artist?s intent and engagement with their contemporary culture and longevity has resulted in many different resolutions - from the display of original (decayed) materials to recording and recreating digital images of the original to the creation of aesthetically interpretable replicas. The balance between using and preserving ?plastic? artwork is a fine and delicate line of compromise. The complex enigma of how to identify from which (of the many) synthetic polymers, the mass-produced ?plastic objects? within our collections are formed, remains, as yet, unsolved. Instead, through experience, observation and research, museums are developing collecting policies, recording techniques and preservation strategies which take pragmatic and utilitarian approaches, differentiating between stable and unstable plastics on the grounds of age, color, design etc. Whilst generic understanding of decay mechanisms are becoming more fully understood, there has been limited success in creating the tight environmental controls needed to extend the longevity of plastic-based materials.