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Subject: Early polymers in ethnographic collections

Early polymers in ethnographic collections

From: Margrit Reuss <margrit>
Date: Thursday, January 25, 2001
On behalf of Noemie Walter, Valentin Boissonnas
<valentin.boissonnas [at] freesurf__ch>, writes

>    I am a third year student in conservation of archaeological and
>    ethnographic objects at the Haute Ecole d'Art Appliquee, La
>    Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. In April I will start my
>    dissertation which will discuss the problems encountered in the
>    conservation of early synthetic polymers as found in
>    ethnographic collections. For the practical object related study
>    and analysis I am looking for a collection that includes such
>    artefacts.

In 1997 I completed my dissertation on early plastics in
ethnographic collections for the objects conservation course in
Stuttgart, Germany. This was published last year in the Weisse
Reihe, the publication series of the Academy: "Imitationen aus
fruehen Kunststoffen in voelkerkundlichen Sammlungen". The paper
comprises an historic part and a part on the deterioration and
conservation of plastics. It was published in German, but I have
also written an article in English on the outcome of the material
and historic investigation for the ethnographic working group of
ICOM-CC in Lyon in 1999 ("Imitations made from early plastics as
trade goods").

The main ethnographic collection on which I based my studies for the
dissertation is that of the the Lindenmuseum in Stuttgart, Germany.
I also I had the chance to investigate objects from the Pitt Rivers
Museum in Oxford which houses a large collection of trade beads.
Julia Fenn and Catherine Sease have published papers on early
plastics which they found in the collections on which they work
(Royal Ontario Museum in Canada and the Field Museum in Chicago

I am sure that there is still much to investigate and there are
definitely more collections which house objects such as early
plastics which were traded around the world soon after one started
to produce them in the second half of the 19th Century.

If you would like to have more details, please do not hesitate to
contact me personally.

Margrit Reuss
Objects Conservator
National Museum of Ethnology Leiden
Postbus 212
2300 AE Leiden
The Netherlands
+31 71 5168787
Fax: +31 71 5128437

                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:40
                 Distributed: Friday, January 26, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-14-40-005
Received on Thursday, 25 January, 2001

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