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Professor Susan Lambert, Chief Curator at AUB's Museum of Design in Plastics

Arts Council England designates UK’s only Design in Plastics Museum as collection of ‘national importance’


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The Collection held by the Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP) at Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) in Dorset, has been officially awarded Designated status by Arts Council England, recognising the museum’s exhibits as a ‘collection of national importance’.

MoDiP’s collection is the world’s most comprehensive survey into how plastics have transformed the designed world. The collection uniquely charts the development of design in plastics from natural plastics to 3D printed objects.

Encompassing an extensive range of items of historical, cultural, and social significance, the collection includes sporting objects like an early billiard ball formed in imitation of ivory and era-defining toys like Hasbro’s iconic Mr Potato Head, to items crucial to improving the human condition, like prosthetic limbs, which remain essential to the mobility of millions today.

The Arts Council Designation award recognises MoDiP’s collection, based in Poole, Dorset, alongside internationally recognised collections like Kensington Royal Palace’s Royal ceremonial dress collection and the Ritual Judaica collection, held by London’s Jewish Museum.

The MoDiP collection includes the work of many leading designers including Zaha Hadid, Kenneth Grange, Dieter Rams, Ettore Sottsass and Philippe Starke, as well as essential everyday objects that design in plastics has made possible, such as an array of plugs and switches.

Professor Susan Lambert, Chief Curator of the Museum, said: “There is no other collection in the world which researches and engages with the impact of design in plastics on society so effectively and extensively, and we’re proud to rank among some of the most esteemed museums in the world, being recognised beside historic and significant collections like those of The Pitt-Rivers Museum, The Wellcome Trust, and the Museum of London.”

The museum, which was established in 2007 at Arts University Bournemouth’s Wallisdown campus, has also taken on a role as convenor of discussions about both the positive and negative impacts of plastics. Professor Lambert explains: “In recent years, discourse around plastics in the designed world has been divisive, being somewhat polarised by issues around overuse and sustainability.

“We often see plastics depicted as objects that leave an indelible and damaging impact on the natural world, and while that’s certainly something we need to address as a global community, the current pandemic will see more than 8 billion plastic vaccination syringes used across the world to counter the threat of COVID-19.

“Over the course of the pandemic and beyond, plastics have been crucial to saving lives and ensuring the safety of populations across the world. Their sustainable and responsible disposal and innovative use is, however, something that we must consider and encourage for future generations.”

Dr Nick Merriman, Chair of Arts Council England’s Designation panel, said: “The Designation Scheme plays a critical role in raising the profile of nationally and internationally significant collections throughout England. We hope this spotlight safeguards them for the enjoyment and enrichment of many generations to come.

“I’m delighted that the scheme is recognising the outstanding collection at the Museum of Design in Plastics, which demonstrates the fundamental importance and impact of plastics in our world.”

Professor Paul Gough, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: “This is a terrific accolade for the museum. AUB has an international reputation as an innovative arts university which values the contribution of design to society and industry.

“Our new Strategy embraces the value of the arts and design and their impact on all our lives. Our staff and students gain significantly from the collection as do a wide range of external stakeholders who will greet this latest achievement with deep satisfaction.”

Arts Council England’s Designation scheme identifies the pre-eminent collections of national importance held in England’s non-national museums, libraries, and archives, based on their quality and significance.

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