The museum houses three distinct collections that are composed of mainly 20th & 21st Century design and popular culture and offer a wide spectrum of objects that illustrate the role of plastics against social and historical contexts.

The MoDiP collection

All objects in the MoDiP collection relate in some way to our plastics focus.  In addition, they conform to one of three other criteria:

  • be an interesting design
  • provide insight into the society of which it is a part, or
  • be documented in such a way that it adds to plastics history

The collection comprises objects that describe a variety of uses and activities.  These take into account the clothes we wear, the games we play, and the environments in which we live.

Objects include, but are not limited by; furniture, sports equipment and technical clothing, medical devices, materials for building and construction, as well as those made from sustainable resources or designed to protect the environment.  They aid in the understanding of the materials and manufacturing methods of the plastics industry and are supported in this by a growing collection of archival material and a reference library, all of which can be viewed online and in the museum by request.

The full Collection Development Policy can be downloaded from the MoDiP website.

The PHS Collection

The Plastics Historical Society, which was formed in 1986, is an independent society affiliated to the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

The PHS exists ‘to promote the collection, preservation and study of all material (artefacts, equipment, processes and documentation) relating to the history of plastics and other polymers; to facilitate the interpretation and sharing of such knowledge; and to encourage the recording of current developments in plastics and polymers considered to be of value to future generations.’

The Society has a collection of manufactured plastics artefacts and samples some of which date back to the 19th century, including examples of the very first man-made plastics.  In 2009, the PHS collection was put into the care of MoDiP for an initial period of seven years where it was documented and photographed.  It is available for reference and can be viewed via the online catalogue.

The PHS collection complements the MoDiP collection of artefacts which is predominantly post 1945.  Together, these two collections offer a broad representation of the use of plastics in design.

The PHS website www.plastiquarian.com contains a wealth of information about plastics, the history of their discovery and processing, relevant museums and galleries of collections and items on the care of plastics.  The Society also has its own library which is housed at the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining in London and comprises many hundreds of books and documents relevant to the history of plastics.

The Horners collection

The Worshipful Company of Horners is both an ancient craft guild and a modern City of London Institution promoting the interests of the polymer industry.

Horn has been used since prehistoric times as a cheap, readily available, easily worked material from which essential tools as well as decorative items were made.  The first historic reference to the Company was recorded in 1284, although the craft of the horner dates from centuries earlier.  In 1476 the Bottlemakers, whose trade was being eroded by glass bottles, joined the Horners.  The Company operates under a Charter received from Charles 1 in 1638, although it is known that there were earlier charters.

As the craft of working with horn declined, in 1943 the Company adopted the emerging plastics industry, many of whose production techniques were familiar to the practising horner.  The Company has charitable funds which are used to support activities in youth education and industrial design, as well as support for the City of London.

The Company has an extensive collection of items made from horn and the early synthetic plastics which replaced horn.  They range from simple agricultural tools such as drenches for use with cattle to sophisticated pressed and pierced horn combs from the 17th century. In addition to these items there is a collection of horn-working tools that demonstrate how the comb makers gradually mechanised their trade.

In 2010, the collection of artefacts was relocated to MoDiP, initially for a period of seven years.  The collection of over 400 items provides a comprehensive insight into the use of one of nature’s plastics.  This hitherto little seen collection has been photographed and documented and is available for reference and can be viewed via the on-line catalogue.

For more information about The Worshipful Company of Horners please visit www.horners.org.uk.