Live online course – An Introduction to Plastic Materials (Part 1) with Brenda Keneghan

Ref: M1W13590

Location: Online
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About this course

Learn about the history and development of the numerous types of plastic materials that are commonly found in museum and gallery collections. Explore their different production methods. Through lectures and visual examples discover how the stabilities of the materials may differ from one another.

Course Description

The course is aimed at anyone with an interest in plastics in the context of museum and gallery collections. It is suitable for recent graduates and more experienced professionals who wish to enhance their knowledge of plastics. This will include anyone involved in collections management including curators, conservators, gallery assistants. It will also be of interest to collectors and designers. Through lectures, exercises and examples, you will develop your awareness of the variety of plastics materials available and their different properties. Using examples from the West Dean Collection and other objects, you will see how plastic materials were first introduced to the world and how their profile has changed over time. By the end of the day you will have learned about the historical development of plastics, where they commonly occur in collections, and have an awareness of their varying instabilities. 

9.30-9.40am       Students login, housekeeping, etc.
9.40-9.50am       Introductions (Tutors)
9.50-10.05am     Introductions (Attendees)
10.05-10.20am   Presentation 1 – What are plastics?
10.20-10.30am   Q & A
10.30-11.00am   Presentation 2 – History and development of plastics
11.00-11.15am   Break
11.15-12.00pm   Presentation 3 – Plastics in museums and galleries
12-12.15pm       Questions on above
12.15-1.00pm    Introduction to West Dean and its modern materials holdings
1.00-2.15pm      Lunch
2.15-3pm          Presentation 5 – Degradation of plastics
3-3.15pm          Questions
3.15-3.30pm      Break
3.30-4.30pm      Examination of selected West Dean objects or objects brought by attendees
4.30-5pm          Final questions / discussion

Course Materials

What students need to bring

Students are welcome to source any plastic objects to show over the camera for examination and/or discussion.


What format does the course take?
Our online live-streamed courses run each day from 9am-5pm.

Is the course taught live?
Yes, the course is taught live via Zoom.

Will the course be recorded?
No, the course will not be recorded.

How many people will be on the course?
There are a maximum of 10 -12 places for most courses, depending on the subject. Some lecture courses may take more students.

How do I sign up for a course?
Follow the online booking process to sign up for a course.

Can I use a College gift voucher for online courses?
Yes, simply enter the gift voucher code at the online checkout.

How do I access my course?
You will receive a link and passcode to access the course by email, typically within two working days.

What do I need to set up or prepare before the course starts?
Find yourself a quiet place to work during the core teaching times, away from background noise and distractions. 

Ensure you read and familiarise yourself with the Zoom joining instructions emailed to you with your course confirmation before the course starts. We recommend doing this several days in advance to avoid technical issues on the day.

What computer set-up will I need to take a course?
You can join a Zoom meeting on a computer or laptop (Mac or PC) with internet connection, a webcam, microphone, and speakers (usually in-built). You need a high speed, reliable internet connection and an up-to-date internet browser (see "What web browser do you recommend" below). You will also need an email account to sign up for a course.

To join the course, click on the link in your confirmation email and follow the instructions on the screen. If you do not already have the Zoom desktop client or app downloaded, you will be prompted to do so. Please note, you do not need to set up an account with Zoom to join a meeting.

For additional help joining a meeting, see Zoom’s support information.

For some courses, it may also be useful to have a secondary device available (such as a smartphone or iPad/tablet). This can help you to share your work in progress during the day.

Some of the course resources may be presented as PDF files, which will require a PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader.

What web browser do you recommend?
Where possible, please make sure your browser is up to date.

PC – Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Internet Explorer

Mac – Safari, Firefox, and Chrome

For more detailed information, see Zoom’s System Requirements page

On computers and laptops the fullest experience with Zoom will come from using the Zoom desktop client. When you click a meeting invitation, you will be invited to download the client. You can also do this in advance from Zoom’s website.

On phones and tablets, download the Zoom mobile app from the App Store (iPhone) or Google Play (Android).

What do I do if I experience technical issues?
Support with setting up and using Zoom is available through:

Zoom’s video introductions

Zoom’s support centre

We recommend setting up and testing the Zoom desktop client / app well in advance of your course to minimise problems on the day. If you have checked the technical requirements above but the problem persists, email [email protected] (Monday to Friday). Where possible, include a screenshot showing the problem or error message. Please note we cannot guarantee an immediate response.


Brenda Keneghan

Brenda Keneghan is a conservation consultant in modern materials. She recently retired from the Victoria and Albert Museum where she was the specialist in plastics in the conservation Department for 27 years. She has initiated research into the degradation of plastics in collections and led the V&A's team in the EU-sponsored research programme (PoPART).


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.