In his recent letter (July 14, Page 6 “Museum should move to bustling Chicago”) to Plastics News, Irvin Rubin stated that our industry has “no viable museum.” This comes as a surprise to those of us who work at the National Plastics Center & Museum (NPCM) here in Leominster, Mass., and the many individuals and companies whose funding has made the NPCM a thriving institution. Irv suggests that the industry abandon this substantial and successful investment in favor of starting from scratch in Chicago because “it is a large, museum-oriented city.”
Leominster is a small city that happens to be the birthplace of the U.S. plastics industry and is, along with its sister communities, passionately “plastics museum-oriented.” It was local companies and individuals who first advanced the idea of a plastics center and museum 21 years ago and worked tirelessly to make it a reality. Today the NPCM has assets of $4.6 million. This includes a spacious 105-year-old building (40,000 square feet over four floors) that is ideally suited to serve as a museum; it was purchased for one dollar and is now valued at $2.3 million.
While the people of this area struggled to create the NPCM, however, what now sustains it and propels its progress is support that comes from across the country. In addition, a good part of the progress that we expect to make involves outreach — taking the museum to young people and plastics-company employees far afield from Leominster. Through our traveling PlastiVan program and our plans for “virtual visits” to the NPCM on the Internet, our reach will be vastly greater than the regions around either Leominster or Chicago.
Indeed, it already is. Last year our PlastiVans made 256 visits around the country, reaching 44,353 students. Our plan for next year is to reach 55,000 students by making 300 visits.
The plastics center and museum at Leominster continues to grow. Irv Rubin alluded to our recent acquisition of artifacts from the Armand Winfield collection. To accommodate these and other acquisitions, we have hired another full-time collections manager and curator. Irv also mentioned the extensive plastics exhibit being prepared for a three-year presentation at Disney's Epcot Center. In fact, that exhibit will subsequently find a permanent home at the NPCM.
Our steadily expanding fund of contributions and endowments has made possible ambitious new permanent exhibits such as the recently opened Plastics Hall of Fame gallery and an environmental exhibit to be completed this fall. We continue to work closely with every trade and professional organization in the plastics industry. And our board of directors is comprised of industry leaders, including outgoing chairman Peter Bemis of Bemis Manufacturing Co. and incoming chairman G. Watts Humphrey Jr. of Conair Group.
In short, the plastics industry already has a “viable museum.” You will find it in Leominster, Mass. Indeed, through its extensive educational and outreach activities, the NPCM is much more than a museum.
David P. Hahn
National Plastics Center and Museum