A Plan for Plastics at the MET
Kendra Roth / Daniel Hausdorf
Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

In recent years the Metropolitan Museum of Art revitalized its commitment to modern and contemporary art with the addition of several new curators and a building to highlight art of the 20th and 21st Centuries. The increased focus on displaying and collecting in this area has brought new institutional challenges. For example, the lack of sufficient storage to accommodate this rapidly expanding collection led to the construction of a custom-built storage facility with separate climate zones for different classes of materials.
A multi-year Plastic ID project was launched with the aim of generating relevant information on the roughly 400 plastics in our collection. The timing of this project is critical, as much of this collection will be moved off-site for storage. Not only will this information be crucial for determining long-term preservation needs, but it will also inform decision-making for display and guide us in their care and treatment. Additionally, the project will serve to identify vulnerable objects and initiate policies for the preservation and handling of short life-span plastics. Conservators and scientists are also building a plastic reference collection to track the aging of plastics.
While this survey is still ongoing, we propose to present this in two parts. Part one will focus on the design of this project and demonstrate solutions that have already proven successful and were integral for a smooth and efficient workflow. We hope to present part two at the next conference where we will discuss survey results and its implications on the collection.
Simple and accessible techniques for gathering, sharing and storing information were a priority in designing this project. For example, an easy and cost efficient survey method using a PDF-based form that is filled out on a tablet computer was developed. It includes a mapping feature to annotate images and record all generated information such as condition, sampling sites, and analytical results. When completed, the form can be uploaded into the museum’s collection database and is easily accessible for future reference. Another example was the facilitation of data-sharing between conservators and scientists using Google Docs. A spreadsheet containing object information, sample types and locations, and analytical techniques allows for efficient, live updating and tracking of samples and results.