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The Plastics Collection

The Plastics Collection at the Syracuse University Library serves as a research and programming resource 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. The Plastics Collection includes books, periodicals, manuscripts, and over 5,000 plastic objects produced from the late -19th century to the present day.

The collection holds a variety of early plastics made of celluloid, thermoset plastics such as Bakelite and Catalin, as well as plastics made popular after WWII, such as acrylics, polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, and nylon. The archival collection contains material related to important plastics companies, including sunglasses manufacturer Foster Grant, as well as papers of inventors and entrepreneurs, such as John DeBell, Edwin Bushman and Armand Winfield who helped make the 20th century the "Age of Plastic." Of special interest are plastics pioneer John Wesley Hyatt's patent books.

The project was launched in 2007 when members of the Plastics Pioneers Association, an organization of individuals who are persons of accomplishment in the plastics industry, approached SU Library about establishing a plastics collection and companion website. It was generously funded by the Plastics Pioneers' Plastics History and Artifacts Committee, under the leadership of Glenn Beall, and by Syracuse University alumnus Harry Greenwald ('51) and the Greenwald-Haupt Charitable Foundation.

The collection expanded dramatically in 2008 when the National Plastics Center and Museum located in Leominster, Massachusetts closed and transferred its collections of artifacts, books, and manuscripts to SU. This acquisition expanded the Library's already significant holdings in industrial design, science, and technology.

The Syracuse University Library Special Collections Research Center thanks the Plastics Collection Advisory Committee, the Plastics Pioneers Association (PPA), PPA Plastics History and Artifacts Committee, and especially the Greenwald-Haupt Charitable Foundation, whose funding support has made possible this collection.