Identification of Plastic Materials with Brenda Keneghan

Ref: M2D13596

Location: West Dean
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About this course

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.

Course Description

Through lectures and using examples from the West Dean Collection and a handling collection, 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 course you will have learned about the historical development of plastics, where they commonly occur in collections, and have an awareness of their varying instabilities. The need to identify will be demonstrated and different approaches to identification will be discussed. Through a practical examination session, you will develop your awareness of the variety of plastics materials available and their different properties which may aid identification. You should also be able to identify the five most unstable materials and thus protect your collection.

At the end of this course students will have learned about the different types of plastics commonly found in heritage collections. 

Day 1
9.45: Registration
10.00-5.00: Introduction, Theory and Practical sessions 
8.00-9.00: Films from the Plastics Historical Society Archive

Day 2
9.00-4.00: Theory and practical sessions
4.00-4.30: Issue of certificates. Course ends


Day one
9.45am - Registration
10am -5pm - Course
8pm- 9pm - Film

Day two
9am - Course starts
4.30pm - Course ends

Course Materials

What students need to bring

A magnifying loupe and torch would be useful. Participants are welcome to bring their own objects for examination and discussion.


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.

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