Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Colin Williamson collection of plastics trade literature
Date (inclusive): circa 1930-1997, undated
44.5 Linear Feet
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles 90049-1688
Business Number: (310) 440-7390
Fax Number: (310) 440-7780
This collection of trade literature
consists of technical information, manufacturing and design texts, and marketing materials
dating from the 1930s to 1997.
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Language: Collection material is in English and German with some Russian
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.
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.
Open for use by qualified researchers.
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.
Acquired by the Getty Conservation Institute in 2019.
The keyword index associated with the arrangement of the first series has been digitized
and is available online:
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
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
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.
Subjects - Topics
Plastics industry and trade
Museum conservation methods
Plastics industry and trade--Waste disposal
Subjects - Titles
Imperial Chemical Industries, ltd.
Chemical Industries, ltd.
Plastics Historical Society, 2015,
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
. Welwyn Garden City, Herts, 1979.
"Partners and Team Members,"
The Getty Conservation Institute, 2022,
Quye, Anita and Colin Williamson.
Plastics, Collecting and Conserving,
Edinburgh: NMS Publishing Limited, 1999.