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Syracuse University Library acquires National Plastics Center collection, artifacts

November 21, 2008

Pamela McLaughlin
(315) 443-9788

Pamela McLaughlin

Syracuse University Library and the National Plastics Center in Leominster, Mass., have signed a Memorandum of Understanding transferring the center's collection to the library and creating the National Plastics Center at Syracuse University.

Founded in 1982, the National Plastics Center and Museum has amassed one of the nation's largest private collections of artifacts, books and papers related to the history and use of plastics. The center is moving the collection to SU to increase its use. "We're delighted to partner with Syracuse University Library to make our rich collections more accessible to students and scholars," says G. Watts Humphrey, Jr., chairman of the National Plastics Center's board of directors.

"When coupled with SU's interdisciplinary curriculum, these resources will bring history to life by demonstrating how integral plastics are to modernity," says SU Dean of Libraries Suzanne Thorin.

As a result of this new partnership, SU Library will make available to faculty, students and researchers:

  • nearly 3,000 books, journals, magazines, newspapers and industry publications;
  • papers, business records and manuscripts from plastics companies, plastics-industry entrepreneurs and members of the Plastics Hall of Fame, including the records of Union Products, maker of the iconic pink flamingo lawn ornament; and
  • thousands of artifacts, including molds and machinery, fine art, toys, car parts, medical devices, house wares and jewelry.

The artifacts in the collection include objects made of natural plastics such as horn, ivory and tortoiseshell; semi-synthetic plastics, including celluloid; and fully synthetic objects, including those made of the first synthetic plastic, Bakelite®.

The collection has potential connections to the University's curriculum in a number of areas, including chemistry, chemical engineering, industrial design, history, environmental science and entrepreneurship. For example, a women's studies class might consider the role of the Tupperware party in shaping postwar, American gender relations.

Scheduled to arrive in Syracuse in December, the collection will be available for teaching and research in early 2009 through the SU Library's Special Collections Research Center. The University welcomes additional contributions of rare or historically significant books, periodicals and artifacts, as well as financial support to curate and promote this collection.

For more information, contact Sean Quimby, director of the Special Collections Research Center, at (315) 443-9769 or

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