The Science Museum in London will open a new exhibit, "Plasticity – 100 years of making plastics," on May 22. The show will run until January 2009. The event is timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Leo Baekeland's patent on Bakelite, on July 14, 1907, the plastics industry's birthday. The news release from the museum makes it sound like it has an interesting collection of products to display:
Among the 400 exhibits are design classics such as Ekco radios and Art Deco mantle clocks, beautifully engraved cigarette boxes, the 1960s Finnish Futuro House whose design was inspired by the Apollo space mission craft, a 1960s PVC mac and boots, a polyurethane 2006 World Cup football, a working chandelier made from hundreds of Bic biros, an ergonomically designed Herman Miller Mirra office chair, made from recyclable materials and itself 96% recyclable, and even an extremely rare Bakelite coffin together with a phone made from plant-based plastics. The exhibition will reveal the simultaneous but separate work of Baekeland and British scientist Sir James Swinburne to discover the formula for Bakelite – Baekeland pipping Swinburne to the patent by 24 hours – and will draw on the Museum's collections to present an array of Bakelite products. Plasticity will be brought up to the modern day with new uses of plastics, such as plastic blood, a wondrously light and resilient ski suit, a plastic model-producing printer and aeroplanes which are able to change shape during flight to optimise flight at different speeds.Susan Mossman, a curator at the museum, also is the author and editor of a Early Plastics: Perspectives 1850-1950, a book on the history of early plastics. She's quoted in the release: “The story of plastics is a key story of the material world over the past century. Plastics allowed a consumer revolution with the cheap mass production of an array of goods such as radios, televisions, computers, synthetic clothing and disposable biros and razors. However, whilst we have become reliant on plastics for a variety of consumer goods, this exhibition will enable visitors to consider the changes needed in the production, reuse, recycling and disposal of plastics to continue enjoying them in the future.” If you're a fan of plastics industry history, a visit to this museum sounds interesting. Also watch on Aug. 6 for Plastics News' special report, "Celebrating a Century of Plastics."