Outstanding quality of the collection

MoDiP was established in 2007 having emerged from an existing collection of designed objects at the AUB. The quality of the collection can be seen in its scope and scale, its depiction of the development of design in plastics, the designers exemplified in the collection, and its representation of contemporary issues.

Scope and scale of the collection

As of October 2022, when this exhibition opened, the collection consists of 11,425 objects including long term loans from the Plastics Historical Society (PHS) and the Worshipful Company of Horners. It represents plastics’ contribution to designed heritage in greater variety, depth, and time span than any other collection in the world.

All objects in the MoDiP collection relate in some way to its plastics focus by conforming to one or more of the following criteria:

  • to be an interesting design; good or bad
  • to provide insight into the society of which they are a part, or
  • to be documented in such a way that they add 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 to; 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.

Development of design in plastics

Design in plastics is governed by developments in both material and manufacturing processes. MoDiP’s collection uniquely charts its development from natural plastics to 3D printed objects.

Designers

Design in plastics involves a range of creative and technical skills, but often the names of the designers and manufacturers of plastics products are not recorded, so this work goes unrecognised. There are, however, some significant named designers who have worked in plastics.

From the 1940s, European companies placed significant investment into the production of quality objects, made of materials that were fit for purpose. The ‘good design’ concept of the Council of Industrial Design (COID) was adopted by the British plastics industry. Plastics firms set up their own design studios, British Industrial Plastics Ltd (BIP), for example, established a Design Advisory Service as well as a Product Design Unit for use both by designers within the company and beyond. The three people highlighted, A. H. Woodfull, Martyn Rowlands, and David Harman Powell, are key designers of this period.

Contemporary issues

There are many contemporary issues that the MoDiP collection engages with, especially those relating to sustainability, equality, diversity, and inclusion, all of which are key themes for the AUB. 

By recognising and understanding the devastating environmental impact the poor use and disposal of plastics have had, designers, manufacturers, and consumers can learn from the past and consider more sustainable production processes, materials, and disposal routes as part of their choices and actions.