I recently came across the Museum of Jurassic Technology (http://www.mjt.org/). I loved reading about the surreal exhibits and a jaunt through the gift shop recommended reading will leave you laughing. Being a modern kind of girl, I was drawn to the exhibit of modern materials, called “Rotten Luck: The Decaying Dice of Ricky Jay” which is about his collection of dice made of modern materials like Celluloid and Cellulose Nitrate which is falling apart and there is really very little that can be done about it.
It reminded me of the recent Slate article about plastics degradation. The article was so popular that I received a few e-mails from friends outside of the conservation field asking me what I thought of it. Plastics are problematic because at a certain point I don’t think you can really bring them back. You can see in the slideshow of images of Ricky Jay’s dice that once detrioration goes so far, there really is nothing left to consolidate. Ricky Jay and the Museum of Jurassic Technology are resigned to let the dice deteriorate while on public view. This decision sounds a call to art conservators, scientists, and artists-we must decide how to deal with the deterioration of plastics in museum collections.