Tag: plastic preservation

Gently Rotting Away

GOd, how I hate to have a cold. Especially when I have a week off and the weather is nice – now, at the beginning of November, we have the golden & warm days one expects in “golden October”, or Indian summer. I feel weak and start to feel cold when I go to the letterbox … So I did not yet take care for my radio, maybe tomorrow, but I took some pictures of stuff I found.
There was a time, possibly in the late eighties or the nineties or so, when we used to buy and use compact disks like … I don’t know. All of a sudden they were everywhere, cheap and affordable, used for storage, send around, replacing what was before them, the floppy disks, the short-lived zip-thingy. CDs came in small boxes or on a spindle. And while clearing out my stuff here I found one of these old spindles with some cds still on it. This object must be at least fifteen years old. The cds were never used, they simply aged. The spindle was not kept in the dark, but also not intentionally put into the sunlight, it just lingered on, as such things sometimes do.

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Dusty CD-Spindle-Box Seen From Above
Dusty CD-Spindle-Box Seen From Above

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I think the plastic thing once was transparent. If one removes it, this is what you see :

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Reddish-Brown CD On Top
First CD On Top, Reddish-Brown

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The CD on top – there are seven in total – did clearly change colour. I have not put it into a cd-drive, hence can not say whether it is usable. The whole thing is put on a normal, run-of-the-mill white paper as it is used in uncountable numbers in the bureaus of the world. I did not take care for the colours to be corrected & rectified, this is just meant to give you an impression.
Here you see six of the seven cds (I did not unpack the last one), in their succession as they were on saied spindle.

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All CDs, sharp

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Here is a different version, just the flash-setting changed ; a little longer exposure, hence not sharp.

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ALL CDs, not so sharp

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The second is golden-yellow over the whole surface, while numbers three & four only start to stain darkly from the outside inwards, as does the first TDK. Interestingly the two remaining cds, the one seen on the right down and the one not shown (directly under this one), have changed their surfaces uniformly, without a major yellow strip on the outside, the same way the second “Soennecken” did.
So … if you have boxes of compact disks with photographs and other data stored, never looked after, ach – was soll denn schon passieren ? What can happen is that your cds are gently rotting away. A safety copy now & then could be a good idea. And if you are at it, try whether you can still open the files with your actual programs, there was also  some change over the years.

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Shadows

Things decay. Iron corrodes, reacts with the oxygen in the surrounding air, astoundingly what guarantees life on this planet destroys a metal humans see as symbol for strength, iron-willed iron-clad iron-fists ironing out any trace of irony, that’s when the heroes take over and culture, style and humanity take a break.
As I already mentioned, Plastics do rot away too, I found new texts concerning this topic, at the  The Getty and the Victoria and Albert.
Museums store things according to the material they mainly consist of – stones, wooden things, metal objects, ceramics, paintings etc. are kept in single departements where the (nearly) optimal environmental requirements can be procured.
A bit difficile are photographic materials, positives, negatives, glass plates, films, different papers etc. partly treated with an exotic mix of chemicals that in the long run can still react. Film material is not only eaten by fungi – to be correct: The gelatine layer is munched away by Penicillium and others – but the film itself based on nitrocellulose (Ger., Eng.) is highly inflammable and even explosive. If you find some film boxes and want to know what’s inside you do not have to be afraid that they will explode into your face. But you should wear gloves and be careful.

Lyrical Nitrate (Eng.) by DELPEUT and Decasia (Eng.) by MORRISON (Eng.) use such decaying materials to form something new. Searching for “Decasia” on youtube gets some interesting results, DELPEUT’s film is seemingly not there (I am not sure whether this “paradise-lost”-scene is an outtake, the children-exhibition is nice). In the end it’s only shadows on a cave’s wall.

Things

Things have a museum of their own, the “Museum der Dinge / Werkbundarchiv“, and I will not explain what the Werkbund was. Currently there is an exhibition of “Evil things“, until January 2010, don’t miss the photo gallery at the bottom of the page, and if you have some spare time in Berlin go to the Oranienstrasse 25. 
Man creates things and wants them to last. Stone crumbles sooner or later, wood may burn or rot away, most artifacts from metal are remelted, that’s why no Southamerican silver or gold works survived but Spanish dublonzes still litter the European museums.
BUT we have plastics. 
Un-rottable, made for eternity. When Leo H. Baekeland invented a new material, had it patented and started the Age of plastics by founding a company to make money from it in 1910, he well believed that his “Bakelit” would last.
But it does not. Bakelit is a collector’s item today and several museums are specialized in it, f.e. Kierspe, or this virtual museum here. Bakelit is not made for eternity, and collectors describe practices for preserving objects.
As already mentioned the problem is not limited to this resin, other artificial materials are targeted as well.  The Vitra Design Museum explains the difficulties here, it is a problem for collections throughout Europe and the world.