SU Library acquires National Plastics Center collection, artifacts

Syracuse University Library and the National Plastics Center in Leominster, Massachusetts have signed a memorandum of understanding transferring the Center’s collection to the SU Library. This action creates 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 moved the collection to Syracuse University to increase its use. “We’re delighted to partner with Syracuse University Library to make our rich collections more accessible to students and scholars,” said G. Watts Humphrey, Jr., chairman of the National Plastics Center’s board of directors.

Syracuse University Dean of Libraries Suzanne Thorin commented, “When coupled with SU’s interdisciplinary curriculum, these resources will bring history to life by demonstrating how integral plastics are to modernity.”

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
– Thousands of artifacts, including molds and machinery, fine art, toys, car parts, medical devices, housewares, 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 2008, the collection will be available for teaching and research in early 2009 through the Library’s Special Collections Research Center. Syracuse 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 Library’s Special Collections Research Center, at (315) 443–9769 or

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