This table serves as a living document and tracking tool for the continued generation of content for polymers that may be considered for use by museums for collection storage, display, and transportation. The original table was compiled and presented at the American Institute for Conservation’s Annual Meeting in 2020 during the Collections Care Network session.
How to Use This Table
This table currently acts as a landing page, or directory, for polymer classes found within materials used for display, storage, and transportation of cultural heritage materials. This table lists polymer classes (including, but not limited to, plastics) and identifies each polymer’s most commonly encountered physical forms and applications in this context. Specific products (and their brands) that are primarily or significantly composed of these polymer classes are also listed.
This table does not make recommendations for or against the use of the polymers or products listed. Instead, this table serves as a centralized list of known polymers (historically or presently used in proximity to collections) that will direct the reader to up-to-date information regarding each polymer, so that an informed decision can be made about its use in a particular application.
As research and analysis regarding polymers continue to be performed and published, this table aims to serve as a centralized directory for this information, and can be used as a tool by the field at large to identify gaps in our collective knowledge, and highlight areas where further research or the compilation of said research is needed. At present, each polymer links to a CAMEO entry, which will provide a more thorough list of references and summaries of each polymer. It is the aim of the Collections Care Network and Materials Working Group to generate content within each polymer Wiki entry regarding Personal, Environmental, and Collections risks, which will be drawn from recent publications and literature reviews.
- If the field for each polymer regarding Personal, Environmental, and Collections risks contains the text Present, this indicates that content has been generated within the Wiki entry for this risk category, but does not indicate that a risk exists.
- If the field for each polymer regarding Personal, Environmental, and Collections risks contains the text Needed, this indicates that this Wiki entry still needs information regarding this risk category.
- If you wish to contribute or update any information for a given polymer, or if you would like to add a polymer or product, please contact Paige Schmidt using AIC Plastics wiki in the subject line.
Polymer Assessment Tools for Exhibition, Storage, and Transport
The primary goal of this table is to aid in the decision-making process for selecting materials for use in the display, storage, and transportation of cultural heritage materials. This table aims to consolidate references and guide users to the most relevant and up-to-date research, but does not aim to make recommendations for particular polymers or products. When considering if a polymer-based product is appropriate for your intended use, consider the following while exploring the information in this directory:
- Base polymer’s mechanical and chemical properties (including degradation mechanisms and products)
- ALL components of a product’s design (e.g. gaskets, adhesives)
- Intentional additives (including coatings)
- Unintentional additives from the manufacturing process
- Date of manufacture (is this still the same product formulation you relied on 10 years ago?)
For more information on product selection and methods for analysis, please see the panel discussion, When the Rubber Hits the Road: Considerations for Plastics as Storage Materials and Some Tools to Drive the Conversation Forward, presented at the AIC 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting. In the presentation some general recommendations were made. Please refer to the presentation and the table below, as well as the full entries on CAMEO for more detail.
Click on the arrows within the table header to sort the column alphabetically. Use CTRL+F to search within the table
|Polymer Class||Plastic/Elastomer||Form(s)||Application||Manufacturer and test with more text to make column wider test||Content on Personal Risks||Content on Environmental Risks||Content on Collection Risks|
(methyl, ethyl, or butyl alkyl groups)
|Liquid (solidifies upon curing)||adhesive||Loctite/Superglue, Borden/Krazy® glue, Loctite/Super Attack,Eastman Chemical/Eastman 910®, ELFY®/Super glue||Present||Present||Present|
|Epoxy Resin||Liquid (solidifies upon curing)||adhesive||Ablebond; Araldite [Huntsman ex Ciba-Geigy]; CM Bond; Epon® [Hexion]; Epotek; Hxtal; Phillyseal R (formerly Pliacre) [Philadelphia Resins]; UHU||Present||Needed||Present|
|Polyacrylate (Acrylic)||Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)||Solid, clear,colorless sheeting||casework, matting and framing||Evonik, Rohm GmBH[has changed hands]/Plexiglas®, Rohm GmBH/Acrylite® , Astari/Astariglas®, Lucite International/Lucite®, and Perspex International/Perspex®, Plaskolite/Optix®||Present||Present||Present|
|Polyacrylate (Acrylic)||Polyvinyl acrylate||Emulsion (applied as liquid, dries)||glue/adhesive||Needed||Needed||Needed|
|Polyacrylate (Acrylic)||Pressure sensitive adhesive (doesn’t dry)||tape||3M brand (hundreds of acrylic-based tapes); Tesa brand (myriad acrylic tapes)||Present||Present||Present|
3D printing material
|Polyester||Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)||Film, Fiberglass||Polyester fiber, Polyester resin, Melinex, Mylar, Dacron, Terylene, Teijin Fibers||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Polyester||Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT)||Fiberglass, fabric||Insulator in electrical housings||Needed||Needed||Needed|
|Polyester||Polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT)||Fiberglass||Needed||Needed||Needed|
|Polyester||Polyethylene naphthalate (PEN)||Fiberglass||Needed||Needed||Needed|
|Polyester||Polyglycolide or polyglycolic acid (PGA)||Fiberglass||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Polyester||Polylactic acid (PLA)||Fiberglass||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Polyester||Polyethylene adipate (PEA)||Fiberglass||Needed||Needed||Needed|
|Polyester||Polybutylene succinate (PBS)||Fiberglass||Needed||Needed||Needed|
|Polycarbonate||An example where the group name for polymers is not distinguished from individual polymeric chemicals in company’s literature||sheet||glazing||SABIC/Lexan||Present||Present||Present|
|Polyolefin (Polyalkene)||High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)||Closed cell foam
Spun bonded fiber
Gas filled bubbles
Lining, cover, barrier
|Dow/Ethafoam 180, 220, 400, 600, 900; Dow/Ethafoam 180 AS, 220 AS; Sealed Air/Cellu-Cushion; Voltek/Volara; Pregis Corp/PolyPlank;
DuPont/Tyvek Type 10 (stiff),14 (soft),16 (perforated)
Sealed Air Corp/Bubble Wrap
Coroplast LLC/Coroplast (copolymer)
|Polystyrene||Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)||Extruded Foam, Closed Cell
polystyrene core laminated with paper or plastic on both sides
|Dow Chemical/Styrofoam; /Stylite
3A Composites/Fome-Cor; Bainbridge/Artcare Foam Core Boards & Artcare Restore;Laird Plastics/Gatorboard
patented Dow Chemical/ Packing peanuts (packing noodles, foam popcorn)
|Polyurethane||Polyether urethane (PUR ) thermoset elastomer||from very soft to rigid||textile fabric elastane||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Polyurethane||Polyester urethane (PUR ) thermoset elastomer||from very soft to rigid||from skate wheels to safety helmets||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Poly(vinyl acetate)||Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA)||Foam||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Poly(vinyl acetate)||Polyvinyl Acetate (PVAc or PVOH)||Liquid/adhesive||Adhesive/Glue, Paint||Elmer’s; Jade Adhesives/Jade 403 (80/20 vinyl acetate/ethylene copolymer)||Present||Present||Present|
|Poly(vinyl alcohols)||Adhesive/Consolidant||Dupont/Elvanol Sekisui/Selvol Hoechst/Mowitol RhonePoulenc/Rhodoviol Wacker/Polyviol||Needed||Needed||Needed|
|Poly(vinyl butyrals)||Adhesives, Sealants, Coatings||Solutia/Butvar (B-72,B-74,B-76, B-79, B-90, B-98)||Needed||Needed||Needed|
|Poly(vinyl chlorides)||Rigid board||casework||3A Composites/http://cameo.mfa.org/wiki/Sintra%C2%AE_Material Sintra]||Present||Present||Present|
|Poly(vinylidene)||Polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC)||Film||Barrier coating/wrap||Saran Wrap (when it was made by Dow Chemical; now brand is owned by SJ Johnson and "Saran wrap" is made with polyethylene)||Present||Needed||Needed|
|Poly(vinylidene)||Polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF)||Coatings||Needed||Needed||Needed|
|Silicone||Oxime Silicone (NOT acetoxy silicone)||Liquids, gels, elastomers, solid thermoplastic or thermosetting resins||Adhesives, sealants, lubricants, protective coatings||Surebon SB-170||Present||Needed||Needed|
|Cellulose Ester||Cellulose Acetate (CA, CTA, CDA)||Film||Historically used for lamination||Present||Present||Present|
|Cellulose Ester||Cellulose Nitrate (CN)||Adhesive||Shouldn’t be used as storage material||Duco Cement||Present||Present||Present|
|Cellulose Ether||Solid||methyl cellulose (MC), sodium carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC), hydroxypropyl cellulose (HPC), ethyl hydroxyethyl cellulose (EHEC), hydroxyethyl cellulose (HEC), methyl hydroxypropyl cellulose (MHPC), Klucel® [Aqualon], http://cameo.mfa.org/wiki/Glutolin Glutolin [Kalle]], CMC7HC [Hercules], Methocel A [Dow], Cellosize® [Union Carbide];||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Cellulose Ether||Methylcellulose||Solid||Adhesive||Methocel [Dow], Polycell, Tylose® MB [Hoechst], Glutolin, Sicho-Zell, Cellothyl, Syncelose, Celevac, Cellumeth, Hydrolose, Nicel, Culminal [Aqualon], Methofas® [ICI, England]||Present||Needed||Needed|
|Cellulose Ether||Ethyl cellulose||Solid||Adhesive||Ethocel [Dow], Ethylcellulose [Aqualon]||Present||Needed||Needed|
|Rubber (synthetic)||Polybutadiene||Thermoplastic resin||Tire treads, coatings||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Rubber (synthetic)||Polystyrene||see polyolefin entry||Foams, insulator, shock absorber||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Rubber (synthetic)||Nitrile rubber (NBR)||Films, injection molded products||gloves, gaskets, hoses, shoe soles, kitchen mats, printing rolls, food-wrapping films||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Rubber (synthetic)||Styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR)||Films, Injection molded products, coatings||tires, footwear, adhesives, coatings, carpet backing||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Rubber (synthetic)||Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)||Injection molded products||appliances, automobile parts and fittings, telephones, radios, televisions, pipes and conduits, luggage, boats, toys, bottles||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Rubber (synthetic)||Ethylene Propylene Rubber (EPR)||Films, Injection molded products, coatings||gaskets, coated fabrics, footwear and for automobile and appliance parts||Needed||Needed||Needed|
|Rubber (synthetic)||Ethylene Propylene Diene (EPDM)||Solid, foam||Weatherstripping, seals on doors for refrigerators and freezers (where it also acts as a insulator), face masks for industrial respirators, glass-run channels, radiators, garden and appliance hose (where it is used as a hose material as well as for gaskets), tubing, washers, O-rings, electrical insulation||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Rubber (synthetic)||Butyl rubber (Isoprene)||Adhesives, coatings, solid||Tires, inner tubes, hoses, gaskets, diaphragms, paper coating, waterproofing textiles, adhesives||Needed||Needed||Needed|
|Rubber (synthetic)||Neoprene (polychloroprene)||Coatings, solids, films||Gaskets, roof coatings, shoe soles, wet suits, gloves, contact adhesives, fabric coatings||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Rubber (synthetic)||Silicone Rubber||liquids, gels, elastomers, solid thermoplastic or thermosetting resins||adhesives, lubricants, protective coatings, release agents, paints, rubbers, coolants, implants, insulation||Needed||Needed||Present|
|Rubber (Natural, Vulcanized)||Solids, foams||Historical applications, gasketing, shock mounts||Needed||Needed||Present|
Preservation of Plastic Artefacts (PoPART) in Museum Collections Project website
Coughlin, M., 2019. Plastics. In Preventive Conservation: Collections Storage. Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Smithsonian Institution, The George Washington University Museum Studies Program.
Chalifoux Zephir, M. 2010. Care and Identification of Objects Made from Plastic. In Conserve O Gram 8/4. Washington, DC: National Park Service.
Costello, Susan, 2020. Preserving Plastics in the Collection at the Harvard Art Museums, American Institute for Conservation Annual Meeting 2020, May 28.
Down, Jane L., 2015. Adhesive Compendium for Conservation. Canadian Conservation Institute.
Elkin, Lisa, and Christopher Norris. 2019. Preventive Conservation: Collections Storage. Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Smithsonian Institution, The George Washington University Museum Studies Program.
Keneghan, B., and L. Egan, eds. 2007. Plastics—Looking at the Future and Learning from the Past. London: Archetype Books.
Odegaard, Nancy, Scott Carroll, and Werner S. Zimmt, 2007. Material Characterization Tests for Objects of Art, 2nd edition, Archetype Books.
Pasiuk, Janet, 2004. Safe Plastics & Fabrics for Exhibits & Storage. In Conserve O Gram 18/2. Washington, DC: National Park Service.
Shashoua, Y. 2008. Conservation of Plastics: Materials Science, Degradation and Preservation. Oxford, UK:Elsevier Ltd.
van Aubel, Carien; van Rooijen, Olivia. 2020. Plastics You Know: The Plastics Identification Tool and Collection Surveys, American Institute for Conservation Annual Meeting 2020, May 28.
Williams, R. Scott, 2019. Plastic Storage Products. In Preventive Conservation: Collections Storage. Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Smithsonian Institution, The George Washington University Museum Studies Program.
Williams, R. Scott, 2002. “Care of Plastics: Malignant Plastics.” WAAC Newsletter 24 (1): 1–14.
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Pages in category "Plastics"
The following 2 pages are in this category, out of 2 total.