Saturday, July 4, 2009

Brittle Armies

A generation of plastic art objects are degrading like overused Tupperware. Can they be saved? - By Sam Kean - Slate Magazine

Our beloved little plastic army men may be doomed! I have tossed out thousands of old Airfix and Esci figures that had become brittle. They are so brittle that the arms, heads, and weapons snap off at the slightest touch. Even sitting together in the box parts will snap off.

Now it seems that museums are working to solve the same problem we have with our collections, that their plastic items are falling apart too. In some ways it is a matter of time, eventually the items weaken and decay, become brittle and fall apart. In some ways it is how they are stored, UV rays are very bad for the plastics and so is heat or extreme cold.

My plastic figures are generally stored in plastic air tight food storage boxes and those boxes are then inside a wooden chest of drawers or cabinet. So I try and keep them away from UV and heat. Some of my figures are more than fifty years old and were fine. Others were as new as twenty years old when they became brittle. Maybe science can find a solution.

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