Leominster, Mass., is losing the National Plastics Center, which is moving to Syracuse University in New York.
Its new name: the National Plastics Center at Syracuse University, where it will be housed at the campus library.
Historical documents and artifacts including a major collection of early celluloid artifacts and a vintage set of Tupperware will be shipped to the library, which has expertise in housing special historical collections.
The National Plastics Center, which includes a museum and the Plastics Hall of Fame exhibit, opened in 1992 in Leominster, considered the birthplace of the modern plastics industry. The city sold the former schoolhouse building to the center for $1.
But too few people made the trip to Leominster to visit the museum, officials said.
``The average attendance over the last four or five years wasn't enough to cover the operating costs of the building, and thus it caused a severe operating drain on the other programs at the center,'' said Jay Gardiner, who serves on the NPC board of directors. ``We couldn't support that center. It wasn't enough traffic.'' Gardiner also is president of the Plastics Academy, which administers the Plastics Hall of Fame.
Attendance dipped below 1,000 for all of 2007, according to several NPC officials. ``We didn't draw flies up there,'' said Plastics Academy Chairman John Kretzschmar.
The center announced the move Nov. 20. ``Unfortunately, the board has come to realize over the last several years that the Leominster facility can no longer be supported financially,'' said G. Watts Humphrey Jr., who chairs the NPC board.
The traveling PlastiVan remains in operation, said Bill Carteaux, president and chief executive officer of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. SPI manages day-to-day operations of the National Plastics Center, but the NPC board makes the final decisions, he said.
SPI gets Hall of Fame
The Plastics Hall of Fame will move to the SPI's headquarters in Washington. Carteaux said the display will include plasma screens and artifacts, and will be prominently positioned in the building. The plasma screens also will be part of a major showing at NPE 2009 next June in Chicago.
The news hit hard in Leominster, a blue-collar town that has lost several major housewares makers and other plastics companies in the past last decade.
Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella said the center was a source of pride for the city of 45,000 people. He is saddened by its closure, but said he does not fault the National Plastics Center. ``They did a beautiful job'' creating a museum out of a dilapidated school, he said.
He said the troubles at the center are symbolic of what is happening to manufacturing in this country and in the news right now, thanks to the debate over bailouts to banks and the automakers.
``The plastics industry has been struggling for 20 years why don't they bail them out? I don't hear anyone talking about it,'' Mazzarella said.
Leominster's loss is Syracuse's gain.
``We're very, very excited about having the collection,'' said Suzanne Thorin, dean of libraries at Syracuse University. ``It'll be a living collection because we'll continue to grow it. I think the people who believed in this collection will find that the context is the right one.''
Thorin visited the National Plastics Center about five months ago to meet with NPC and SPI leaders. A team from Syracuse University will visit Leominster in December and begin to prepare documents for shipment. They will take digital photographs of every item part of a plan to create an easy-to-use online database of the entire collection, she said. The searchable catalog also will let users to see what documents and books are available at the library.
The library at Syracuse University knows how to care for special collections, Thorin said. ``We have enormously large collections of rare books and archives,'' as well as about 400,000 vintage 78-rpm records, she said.
Thorin said the university has strong programs in chemistry, chemical engineering, industrial design, fashion design and jewelry all a good fit with a major historical collection of plastics.
The doors are already closed at the National Plastics Center in Leominster. The artifacts should be moved out by the end of the year, said local curator Marianne Chalifoux Zephir.
Kretzschmar said several weeks ago the center sent letters to people who have donated artifacts over the years. They will be allowed to take the pieces back if they want, he said.