January 15, 2014

Bofinger Chair
 
Plastics, which first came into use over one hundred fifty years ago, are ubiquitous in our lives. By the mid-twentieth century, many artists and designers were choosing different types of plastic to create their now iconic pieces of furniture and design objects—works that have become highly valued by collectors and museums.

Unfortunately, plastic materials don't always have the long life span once imagined. Many objects made from plastic are showing serious signs of deterioration that can appear with little or no warning.

Identifying the type of plastic-based materials from which these objects were created and determining appropriate conservation methods is a growing problem for museums and a challenge for conservators charged with this work.

Head of Science Tom Learner led a conversation with experts in the field who are grappling with issues related to the conservation of design objects made with plastic materials.



Panelists:

Tim Bechthold
is head of conservation at Die Neue Sammlung, the International Design Museum in Munich, having previously worked at the Vitra Design Museum. He designed and coordinated the FUTURE TALKS conference series, which focuses on the technology and conservation of modern materials in design.

Thea Van Oosten is a former senior conservation scientist with the Cultural Heritage Agency in the Netherlands (RCE). She led the RCE's effort in POPART, an international collaborative research project that addressed the preservation of plastic artifacts in museums.

Roger Griffith is an objects conservator with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, having also worked in the furniture conservation department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is in charge of developing a conservation strategy for MoMA's collection of design objects.

Tom Learner is head of Science and leads the Modern and Contemporary Art Research Initiative at the Getty Conservation Institute.