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Friday, May 17 • 10:30am - 11:00am
(Collection Care) The Polymuse Online Heritage Resource Manager (OHRM): An Australia-Wide Polymer Database for the Museum Industry

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Collecting institutions have significant and growing collections of polymer-based objects, which they have a responsibility to preserve for present and future generations. Initially believed to possess long-term physical and chemical stability, a number of plastics have proven to be inherently unstable. Institutions are faced with vast amounts of rapidly deteriorating materials that also have the potential to compromise neighboring items within a collection. Studying the degradation and conservation of plastics was formally recognized as an important area of research from the early 1990s. With growing awareness of the presence of plastics in museums, a particularly unstable and malignant subset of polymers was recognized. Several collaborative research projects, beginning with the 2008-2012 project POPART (Preservation of Plastics ARTefacts), have been established internationally, bringing together conservators, polymer scientists and plastics technologists. Officially titled, ‘A National Framework for Managing Malignant Plastics in Museum Collections’, PolyMuse is a collaboration of museum professionals and academic researchers from three universities, five museums and one gallery across four Australian cities. From 2017 to 2020, PolyMuse aims to establish informed management strategies for identifying and assessing malignant polymers in Australian collections, and prioritizing actions to improve the useful life of this vulnerable set of objects. A key advantage of the PolyMuse project is its ability to bring together a significant quantity and range of data from different collecting institutions around Australia. Collection surveys have generated object history and manufacturing, condition, storage environment, scientific analysis and treatment details and results. Ensuring data is comparable, accessible and well-maintained presents a major data management challenge. To address this issue, a PolyMuse model of the Online Heritage Resource Manager (OHRM) is being developed, facilitated by the eScholarship Research Centre at the University of Melbourne. The OHRM is a contextual information management system capable of integrating data from a wide range of sources into a relation-focused data curation, analysis and visualization toolset. Relational databases allow contextual information across multiple collections and objects to be presented and analyzed in flexible, interrelated ways revealing previously unrecognized connections. The PolyMuse OHRM provides a central location to combine, relate, search, analyze and output data from each of the project partners, and is anticipated to develop into an effective research tool to analyze attributes between polymers, object types, deterioration issues, storage environments and more. Within time, a public facing online output will provide the first Australia-wide polymer database for the museum industry. The database will continue to grow, allowing ongoing accumulation and analysis of data, and providing a vital resource for reference, identification, and support. This paper will discuss the development, structure and implementation of the PolyMuse OHRM, outlining the requirements and aims for the database, the process of developing the PolyMuse model, integration of the database with the collection survey methodology, research potential, challenges encountered and pathways for further development.

avatar for Julianne Bell

Julianne Bell

PhD Candidate, Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, The University of Melbourne
Julianne Bell is a doctoral researcher at the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne, investigating strategies to improve the management and preservation of three-dimensional plastic objects in Australian museum collections. Julianne's PhD is... Read More →


Ailie Smith

Senior Research Archivist, Digital Scholarship & eScholarship Research Centre, Academic Services, The University of Melbourne
Ailie Smith is a Senior Research Archivist in both the Digital Scholarship Program and the eScholarship Research Centre (ESRC) at the University of Melbourne. Her work includes documenting archival collections, building and maintaining databases, and the development and implementation... Read More →
avatar for Alice Cannon

Alice Cannon

Conservator, State Library of Victoria
avatar for Dr Petronella Nel

Dr Petronella Nel

Senior Lecturer, The University of Melbourne
Petronella Nel is a Senior Lecturer at the Grimwade Centre at the University of Melbourne. She has a BSc (Honours, 1990) in Chemistry and a PhD in Chemistry (2000) and MA in Cultural Materials Conservation (2006), from the University of Melbourne. She is leading a collaborative ARC... Read More →
avatar for Gavan McCarthy

Gavan McCarthy

Director, eScholarship Research Centre, University of Melbourne
Gavan McCarthy has worked at the University of Melbourne in and around archives since 1978. In 2007, he was appointed Director of the eScholarship Research Centre in the University Library and in 2013 was appointed Associate Professor. He was Director of the Australian Science and... Read More →
avatar for Karina Palmer

Karina Palmer

Senior Conservator of Collection Preservation, Museums Victoria
Karina Palmer works at Museums Victoria as Senior Conservator of Collection Preservation. She graduated as an objects conservator in 2001 and has since worked in several different Australian art galleries, museums and archives, including the film and sound archive and an archaeological... Read More →

Friday May 17, 2019 10:30am - 11:00am
Salon A2-A3, Uncas Ballroom Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  • Track Collection Care
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Julianne Bell, Karina Palmer, Ailie Smith, Alice Cannon, Associate Professor Gavan McCarthy, Dr Petronella Nel
  • Abstract ID 18741
  • Tags relational database,plastic objects,polymer conservation,collection survey,collaborative research,