SPEC Kit 333: Art & Artifact Management  · 89
Syracuse University
Plastics Collection Development Policy
Plastics Collection Development Policy
The Plastics Center at Syracuse University, founded in 2008, is the world’s largest university-based resource on the history of
plastics. The purpose of the Plastics Center is to serve as a research and programming center to advance the study and
understanding of plastics in modern society, including its role in chemistry, technology, industry, marketing, health, art, design,
and other fields. Syracuse University Library is home to the Plastics Center’s collection of books, periodicals, manuscripts, and
plastic objects produced from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. Syracuse University is developing the collection
as a research resource and to serve as a platform for new and innovative programming to serve the needs of academic
scholarship, public history, and broad community education.
The nucleus of the library’s history of plastics collection is its longstanding industrial design resources paired with forty-three
archival collections, three thousand books, and two thousand artifacts transferred from the National Plastics Center and
Museum in Leominster, Massachusetts, in 2007. The Leominster materials are largely focused on the New England region. We
aim to broaden the collection by including materials that document the rise of plastics across America.
To date, the story of plastics has been told largely through the eyes of large producers of “raw” plastic—multinational
chemical companies. Many of these companies maintain their own corporate archives. Syracuse University’s collection
therefore emphasizes the use of plastic in design and its adaptation by entrepreneurs in creating important consumer, medical,
and industrial products.
Syracuse University Library seeks archives and manuscripts relating to the individuals and companies who defined the
American plastics industry either as inventors, designers, or entrepreneurs. In particular, we seek to add materials relating to
recognized members of the Plastics Hall of Fame and/or companies whose plastic products could be described as especially
innovative. Papers of individuals and groups advocating for and against plastic also will be accepted.
Some of the types of archival materials we aim to add include design specifications, professional correspondence, laboratory
notebooks, patent applications, and promotional/marketing files. We are not seeking to add corporate personnel records,
nonprofessional personal files, and confidential financial and tax records.
The library also seeks trade manuals, technical manuals, journals, trade publications, textbooks, and other printed materials
from the early years of the plastics industry—the mid-1800s to 1945. Later materials are already well-represented in the
Syracuse University Library’s general collections. In particular, we would like to add materials relating to celluloid, Bakelite,
polystyrene, and nylon. We also seek limited-distribution corporate publications such as annual reports and company histories.
Because our collection focuses on the history of plastics, we typically do not add modern trade publications or mass-market
books, unless they relate to the individuals and companies reflected in our archival collections. (For a list of current
collections, please see library.syr.edu/plastics.)
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