Current Exhibition: Plasticized: The Proliferation of Plastics in 20th Century

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two hands holding plastic wrap in front of apples on a tree

“Perfect pair. The ripe perfection of a juicy red apple, protected by Polyflex film from tree to market.” Opening Gun of a Revolution in Packaging...The Story of Monsanto’s Packaging Division, circa 1963, Eugene F. Phillips Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries

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Bird Library, 6th Floor

February 26 - August 1, 2024

In the second half of the 20th century, and particularly during the American post-World War II period, plastic technology and manufacturing progressed so rapidly that scholars have deemed this period the “Great Acceleration.” During these years, the spread of plastics exploded globally both in production and consumption, forever changing how we live our lives within the material world, altering Earth’s environment and human and non-human bodies in ways just now coming to the surface of our collective understanding. Curated by Lead Curator and Curator of Plastics and Historical Artifacts, Courtney Hicks, Plasticized: The Proliferation of Plastics in the 20th Century presents archival materials which document a selection of plastics' former lives, aspirations, applications, and affects while also offering a glimpse into the world of those individuals and communities often invisible behind the plastic objects themselves. Featuring materials from the plastics collection area at Syracuse University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, these selections provide historical traces of those who imagined, designed, worked with, consumed, promoted, marketed, and resisted this uniquely synthetic material. Explore plastic through its industrial introduction to its universal presence in our everyday lives.