His work has been shown at the Smithsonian Institution and at the University of New Mexico, but Armand G. Winfield wants most of his collection to be housed at the National Plastics Center & Museum in Leominster, Mass.
Winfield is a professor and director of the Training and Research Institute for Plastics at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He got involved in plastics back in the 1940s by embedding miniature art works in acrylic to make jewelry. Since then he's been an innovator in the use of plastics for low-cost housing, synthetic marble, lightweight opera sets, World's Fair pavilions and many other items.
He's donating most of his personal collection of artifacts and papers to the NPCM, which is displaying part of it in the lobby of the Grand Concourse this week at NPE. Winfield said he has collected 300 cubic feet of material.
Asked about its value, he said some of the jewelry is worth more than $14,000, but ``how can you put a price on research?''
``His work was important not only to plastics but to art,'' said David Hahn, NPCM president.
Some of Winfield's work is housed at the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York. Other works have been shown at the Museum of American History in Washington and at the Center for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico.
Winfield recently was in Boston to be interviewed for the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum oral history collection.
He holds seven patents. His international consulting business has served nearly 400 clients on more than 500 projects. He also has written nearly 300 articles and papers, as well as a few books.
At age 83, he is still quite active. In addition to teaching, directing the research institute and consulting, he runs an art gallery.
Winfield founded UNM's plastics program 10 years ago ``because no one in this part of the country was teaching plastics.''
His early jewelry work is housed in museums and prized by collectors, but Winfield has done much more to promote engineering through plastics. Winfield was a pioneer in the application of fiber-reinforced plastics. He designed and directed construction of 13 pavilions or exhibits at the 1964 New York World's Fair and worked on the American Express Outdoor Map of the World.
He said that he worked on the VIP Pavilion for General Electric Corp. and at that time, used a relatively new product, Lexan polycarbonate, in panels for elevator cabs and the VIP building.
He remembers back in the 1970s using jute with resins for the United Nations to build low-cost housing in Bangladesh and in India. He said rice and resin later were used in China for building, while sugar-cane waste was used in the South Pacific and the southern United States.
That expertise helped him to consult on development of lightweight FRP sets for the Metropolitan Opera in New York and to refurbish Adventureland park in Farmingdale, N.Y.
Winfield recently helped his students build lightweight composite-body race cars to compete against other schools.
Winfield has taught at eight different institutions and is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association.