Syracuse University Magazine

Totally Plastic

Syracuse University Library's Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) is now home to one of the nation's leading research collections in the history of plastics, according to SCRC director Sean M. Quimby. In 2008, the National Plastics Center and Museum in Leominster, Massachusetts, transferred thousands of artifacts and archival materials to the library. Founding support for the resource was provided by Harry Greenwald '51 and the Greenwald-Haupt Charitable Foundation. Many private collectors have since contributed artifacts of their own, such as the items above, dating from the 1930s, donated by Dr. Lawrence J. Broutman of Chicago. 

The ubiquitous nature of plastic makes it a multidisciplinary subject of study, relevant to many of the University's academic programs: engineering, business, American history, art history, architecture, chemistry, and philosophy, to name a few. Last fall, the School of Architecture and the Humanities Center hosted "Plastic Modernities," a symposium bringing leading designers to campus to discuss plastic and plasticity as material and metaphor, past and present.   —David Marc

OM_plastic.jpgPictured: table radio; woman's razor in carrying case; poker chips in dispenser; set of coasters from the  1939 New York World's Fair; multicolored paper weight; cologne container in the shape of male figure; retractable cigarette dispenser; drinking straw container; desk clock; and matching salt and pepper shakers.