Conservation of Plastics with Yvonne Shashoua

Object and materials conservation

Ref: M3D11020

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About this course

A wide choice of primary training is available in this country in aspects of object care. However, there are relatively few courses specifically designed to train conservators to deal with modern materials. West Dean College has developed a short course aimed at meeting this training need.

This course is designed to offer participants guidance and practice in state-of-the-art techniques for the handling, packing, storage and display of plastics. It consists of theory and practical sessions, concentrating on recognising the many different materials encountered in collections, and their preventive and active conservation. As well as conservation issues, topics will include history and development of plastics, production technology and use in industry and everyday culture.

Most plastics age much faster than traditional materials, between five and 35 years after manufacture, and during their ageing process they can also accelerate the degradation and corrode the materials that surround them. They need special attention when it comes to preventive conservation, but what delays the decay of one plastic might accelerate the ageing of another. Therefore it is essential that these various types of plastics are identified.

It is usually not possible to do this in detail without thorough knowledge or specialised equipment. However, there are many other aids for characterisation and identification. This workshop helps you to get to know your own collection and objects, their nature and their needs.

Course Description

Day 1
18.45 Welcome to the course and tutors 
19.00 Dinner
20.00 Historical development of plastics
Day 2
Plastics production and properties
Theory and practical session to identify types of plastic using simple, non-destructive, destructive and instrumental techniques
19.00 Dinner

Day 3
Degradation of semi-synthetic and synthetic plastics
Preventive conservation of plastics
Practical session to recognise and monitor deterioration of plastics
Cleaning and adhering plastics in practice
19.00 Dinner

Day 4
Challenges of active conservation of plastics
Ups and Downs of plastics conservation, Stories of plastics conservation from the Science Museum and the Museum of London
Issue of certificates
15.30 Course ends.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

Participants are invited to bring objects of their own to the course to study degradation phenomena.
The course is suitable for conservators, conservation scientists, curators and collection managers.


Yvonne Shashoua

Yvonne is Object and Materials Conservation (OMC) Course Leader and a Senior Researcher in Modern Materials at the National Museum of Denmark. Her research into the degradation and conservation of plastics was gained both from working in the polymer industry and the British Museum.


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

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