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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical Note
  • Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms
  • Bibliography

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Colin Williamson collection of plastics trade literature
    Date (inclusive): circa 1930-1997, undated
    Number: 2022.M.8
    Creator/Collector: Williamson, Colin
    Physical Description: 44.5 Linear Feet (94 boxes)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    Business Number: (310) 440-7390
    Fax Number: (310) 440-7780
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: This collection of trade literature consists of technical information, manufacturing and design texts, and marketing materials dating from the 1930s to 1997.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record   for this collection. Click here for the access policy  .
    Language: Collection material is in English and German with some Russian

    Biographical Note

    Colin Williamson is a British technologist in the polymer raw material and additives sectors. An authority on the manufacture and development of early plastics, he is deeply involved in the conservation issues of plastics objects in museum collections. Williamson joined the plastics industry in 1969 as a colorist and additives specialist. In 1971 he began collecting early plastics, and rescued many archival records of companies who were active in the plastics and rubber industries.
    Through the 1980s, Williamson focused on the environmental and historical aspects of plastics. Williamson co-founded the U.K.-based Plastics Historical Society in 1986, launched Smile Plastics Ltd. in 1987 with an emphasis on recycling, was the founder chairman of the Plastics Recyclers' Trade Association and the Plastics Consultancy Network, and became a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Horners in 1988. Williamson lectured internationally on plastics history, design, technology, business, and environmental impacts. He made public appearances on television and radio as the 'plastics expert.' Part of a long-term initiative, Williamson contributed as a consultant to the Getty Conservation Institute's Preservation of Plastics project.

    Historical Note

    Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited (ICI) was one of the largest British manufacturers of chemicals, plastics, paints, pharmaceuticals, and specialty products in the twentieth century. The company was formed by the merger of Brunner Mond, Nobel Explosives, the United Alkali Company, and British Dyestuffs Corporation in 1926, and dissolved in 2008 when it was acquired by AkzoNobel. Contemporaries with companies such as Du Pont and IG Farben, ICI was one of the largest single producers of thermoplastics materials in the world for an extended period of its existence. ICI was also active in the development of plastics technologies and production methods, contributing processes such as the sandwich mold.
    The Plastics Group of ICI was formed in 1938 to coordinate the many interests in plastics materials which were developing in different parts of the corporation. It later became the Plastics Division, as it expanded under shifting supplies demands during the second World War. Major early products included 'Perspex,' 'Daikon,' 'Mouldrite,' and 'Alkathene.' The entry of Japan into World War II disrupted British supplies of Malaysian rubber, and accelerated the development of Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). At the conclusion of the war in 1945, the ICI Plastics Division was manufacturing and selling acrylic sheet and molding material, thermosetting resins and molding powders, and PVC products and nylon monofilaments. In the following years, the division produced an exponentially larger range of materials and products.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Colin Williamson collection of plastics trade literature, circa 1930s-1997, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2022.M.8.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Colin Williamson. Acquired by the Getty Conservation Institute in 2019 and transferred to the Getty Research Institute in 2022.

    Processing Information

    Acquired by the Getty Conservation Institute in 2019.

    Digitized Material

    The keyword index associated with the arrangement of the first series has been digitized and is available online: http://archives.getty.edu:30008/getty_images/digitalresources/spcoll/ICI_Keyword-In-Context-KWIC_1983.pdf

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This collection houses technical, trade, and industry print, marketing materials, and grey literature, collected over several decades by Colin Williamson from the libraries, archives, and offices of companies and business entities active in the plastics and rubber industries, and donated to the Getty in 2019.
    Dating from the 1930s to the 1990s, it consists largely of such papers and records from the library of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, with additional sources from competitors and various professional organizations. The documents evidence a rich material and industrial history, provide substantive technical data on a wide range of polymers, resins, manufacturing processes and equipment, and feature prominent examples of Consumer Era advertising.
    The collection contains resources for the discipline of cultural heritage conservation, addressing the role of plastics and rubbers in chemistry, technology, environment, industry, marketing, health, art, design, architecture, and other sectors. Though the majority of the collection is paper-based, a small quantity of plastics samples and plastic objects of a variety of types are also present. The collection allows researchers, scientists, and conservators numerous access points to explore material, technical, advertising, and trade information for an exceptional range of plastics, resins, brands, applications, and manufacturing processes.


    This collection is arranged into the following three series:
    Series I. Imperial Chemical Industries marketing library, 1947-1989; Series II. Imperial Chemical Industries technical service documents, 1943-1993; Series III. Plastics design and manufacturing: Imperial Chemical Industries and competitors, circa 1930-1997.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Topics

    Plastics Deterioration
    Plastics craft
    Materials science
    Industrial marketing
    Trade literature
    Material innovation
    Plastics industry and trade
    Museum conservation methods
    Plastics industry and trade--Waste disposal

    Subjects - Titles

    Imperial Chemical Industries, ltd.


    Williamson, Colin
    Imperial Chemical Industries, ltd.


    "About PHS," Plastics Historical Society, 2015, https://plastiquarian.com/?page_id=69.
    Encyclopedia Britannica Online, "Imperial Chemical Industries PLC," accessed August 22, 2022, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Imperial-Chemical-Industries-PLC.
    Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, Plastics Division. The Story of the ICI Plastics Division . Welwyn Garden City, Herts, 1979.
    "Partners and Team Members," The Getty Conservation Institute, 2022, https://www.getty.edu/conservation/our_projects/science/plastics/partners.html.
    Quye, Anita and Colin Williamson. Plastics, Collecting and Conserving, Edinburgh: NMS Publishing Limited, 1999.