BORING…was my first thought when I saw these flowers in the Museum’s basement when I was researching our collection of early plastics. They looked sad, and like they had been sitting on a shelf for about 100 years.
BUT wait… further reading in the old Museum Archives uncovered something interesting!
These plastic flowers were purchased by the Museum in 1939, because they were an exciting new type of plastic (Rhodoid) that had just entered the market. They went on display, to show industry how they could use this new plastic in manufacturing and advertising.
So what was so special about these kind-of ugly plastic flowers?
They are fluorescent! Further reading discovered they were displayed in the Museum for a few years under a black-light, which allowed them to fluoresce, and probably looked quite amazing.
And with the help of talented photographer Kate Pollard here are the flowers restored to all their original glory…
This project brought up some interesting museological issues. Using UV light to photograph the flowers in this way is a museum conservation ‘no-no’, as it damages the plastic. It would be safe to say these flowers will never be displayed in the Museum under this kind of light, however their ability to fluoresce is the reason they were acquired in the first place.
So while we may have damaged these museum objects by taking this photo, the digital image will now become one of the only ways we can see these flowers in their true glory.