Strategies for the conservation of outdoors transparent polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) in architecture and museum objects

The research project deals with the possibilities of sustainable maintenance of outdoor transparent acrylic components. The sustainable material conservation of plastic components is a current challenge in the cultural heritage preservation and the conservation and restoration of the built heritage of the second half of the last century.

Numerous historic valuable buildings and cultural artefacts from the last century have transparent acrylic components. Especially outdoors cultural objects are affected by increased UV-light, exhaust fumes, graffiti and vandalism, which damage the visual appearance and the material of the formerly transparent acrylics. Instead of removal and replacement of the original substance, historical acrylics on valuable cultural heritage objects should be maintenanced on a regular basis to prolong their lifespan.

In contrast to the last mid-century, when plastics were considered as efficient, versatile and everlasting materials, today plastics are regarded as problematic. But, concerning cultural heritage deserving protection, built plastic products are essential original matter and form-building in multiple ways.

Built plastic products are carrier of meaning in terms of cultural values as well as carrier of information in terms of historic recipes and production techniques. Unlike more conventional historic materials for building and construction, for synthetic materials like acrylics there are no approved and confirmed methods for their sustainable material conservation and maintenance. A different view on plastics, not as disposable products, but as material that deserve conservation and that is possible to be preserved, helps conserving the substantial heritage of the modern.

Brief final project report:

Research assistant: Dipl.-Restauratorin Univ. Susanne Brunner

Co-operation partner:

Deutsches Museum München Dr. Marisa Pamplona-Bartsch

Bayerisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Dipl.-Chem. Martin Mach

Funded by Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt DBU

Duration of the project: 03/2020 – 12/2022