Synthetic polymers dominate many contemporary art and design collections and are rapidly becoming a significant conservation concern. Surveys have shown that PVC can represent 13% of all plastic objects in such collections and that cellulose acetate, cellulose nitrate and PVC represent 40% of all objects in poor state. With the new and exciting forms of artistic expression that synthetic materials enable, their prevalence is set to increase in the future, which makes the need to understand PVC ever more pressing, as one of the three main “problem” polymers in collections.
Impacts & Results
The projects goals are:
To recognize the fundamental link between chemical degradation and mechanical damage and using this information to develop preventive conservation guidelines for modern heritage and art collections made from poly(vinyl chloride) – PVC.
Survey real heritage collections using non-destructive analytical tools to determine material composition as well as to quantify the extent of damage by measuring colour, quantifying surface deposits of additives and by measuring the extent of cracking in historical objects.
In-depth scientific research into more than 70 sacrificial historical samples of PVC in order to obtain compositional data. With these well-defined samples, we will carry out accelerated degradation experiments at various conditions in order to assess the rates of degradation.
Quantify the accumulated damage and develop models, i.e. damage functions, that quantitatively describe the relationship between rate of degradation, environmental conditions and sample composition.
Develop preventive conservation scenarios, exploring how the rates of degradation can be slowed down at various combinations of environmental parameters.
Cover image"Plastic Art?" by geoftheref is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.