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Properties of Plastics: A Guide for Conservators

Thea B. van Oosten

A practical, comprehensive resource on the complex behaviors of plastics written expressly for conservation and cultural heritage professionals.
Almost every museum in the world is confronted with plastics in their collections. Research initiatives and knowledge concerning the conservation of heritage objects made of plastics have proliferated over the last twenty-five years, necessitating this up-to-date, comprehensive resource. Intended as a highly practical guide for the conservation community, this authoritative book offers information essential to understanding plastics, polymers, and rubber/elastomers and their behaviors in the cultural heritage context. Numerous graphs, diagrams, and illustrations allow readers to compare the mechanical, physical, thermal, and optical properties of these substances during conservation. Aimed at the hands-on museum practitioner, this book will assist professionals in choosing the appropriate methods and materials for preserving and treating plastic objects. 
Complementing the main chapters, fifty-six illustrated “fact sheets” summarize, at a glance, the properties of those plastics most commonly found in museum collections. Six informative case studies present real-world examples of current conservation approaches to works of art and design made of plastics and rubber/elastomers. Under the expert authorship of Thea B. van Oosten, conservation scientist, educator, and internationally regarded authority on the behavior and properties of plastics, this instructive volume is destined to become an invaluable resource for the field.

Thea B. van Oosten is a conservation scientist, educator, and internationally regarded expert on the behavior and properties of plastics.

Winner of the American Institute for Conservation 2024 Publication Award

“Given that the use of plastics has grown more prolific with each passing decade since the last half of the nineteenth century, it is imperative for collection stewards to better understand this family of materials as a key component of art, design, and material culture. Properties of Plastics is a beautifully illustrated, accessible book that has essential information for understanding and caring for this complex and ever-expanding class of objects.”
—Mary Coughlin, Winterthur Portfolio

Properties of Plastics – A Guide for Conservators is a very useful reference book for both newcomers to the topic and those already established.”
—Dr. Mark Kearney, Journal of the Canadian Association for Conservation (J.CAC)

"A must-have introduction for conservation students, as well as an everyday handbook for conservators who care for the preservation of collections with objects made of plastic. This publication is an important step in raising awareness of the conservation of plastic objects.”
—Friederike Waentig, Technische Hochschule Köln

“A must-read for conservators, but also interesting for conservation scientists and curators confronted with plastic material, especially in modern art, textiles, and furniture. The book is very well structured, very informative, and beautifully illustrated. The book provides a base for understanding the chemistry of plastic, explained in a highly understandable fashion with several case studies focused on a wide range of conservation issues. In addition, fifty-six fact sheets present the most relevant plastics in an outstanding manner. A joy to read.”
—Maarten R. van Bommel, Professor of Conservation Science, University of Amsterdam

"Thea van Oosten's book Properties of Plastics: A Guide for Conservators is a book that all have been longing and waiting for in the field of modern and contemporary conservation. Finally, a publication is designed and written for conservators that makes the field of plastics more accessible. I feel this will become a valuable tool for conservation studios around the world. The last chapter of the book and the fact sheets are my favorite parts of the book. These individual snapshots of the most important and comprehensive plastics and elastomers will be incredibly useful and helpful to anyone interested in our field of conservation looking to have information at their fingertips.  Every conservation school, laboratory, or studio should have a copy of this important and significant publication on plastics."
—Roger Griffith, Conservator/Owner of Two Sticks Inc.: Modern and Contemporary Conservation  

"The conservation of plastic objects is a new challenge for cultural heritage. This book, written by a recognized expert in the field, provides conservation students and conservators with the solid and comprehensive foundation needed to best care for our modern and contemporary heritage—a must-read text- and reference book!"
—Bertrand Lavédrine, coordinator of the POPART project, Centre de Recherche sur la conservation, Paris

320 pages
7 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches
251 color and 161 b/w illustrations
15 tables
ISBN 978-1-60606-693-5

Getty Publications
Imprint: Getty Conservation Institute