Tips for Preserving Plastic Artifacts

Craft & Design Science
Tips for Preserving Plastic Artifacts

Antoine Pevsner’s Portrait of Marcel Duchamp as it appeared, left, shortly after its creation in 1926, and in 2009, right.

Though “plastic” has now largely overcome its The Graduate-era connotation of “necessarily cheap, fake, and ephemeral,” it remains the case that plastic objects—especially those manufactured early in the history of plastics technology—present unusual challenges for long-term conservation. As a dabbling ray gun collector, I’ve poked around in this area a bit, trying to figure out the best way to display my collection under conditions designed to control degradation. Not wanting to spend a bunch of money on a specialist text written and priced for professional conservators, however, I have found that this pamphlet from the National Park Service provides a great overview of the subject, but with plenty of specific detail to satisfy my needs as a hobbyist.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan