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Musical Instruments


A general term for any natural or synthetic organic material that can be shaped and molded to form a product that retains its given shape. Natural plastics include tree resins, beeswax, gutta-percha, horn, and clay. Synthetic plastics were first made in the 19th century. Celluloid, patented in 1870, was the first to achieve commercial success. Plastics are used as substitutes for glass, metal and wood. They are classified as :

1. Thermoplastic - can be heated to soften then cooled to harden without changing its basic properties. Examples are: polyacetal, as well as some acrylics, cellulose esters, fluorocarbons, nylons, polycarbonate, polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, and vinyl resins.

2. Thermoset - once cured, it cannot be softened with heat or pressure. Examples are: epoxy, phenolic resin, as well as some polyurethanes, polyesters, silicones, and melamine.

MFA Acc. #: 2004.2149

Synonyms and Related Terms

plástico (Esp.); plastique (Fr.); plastica (It.); plástico (Port.)


Physical Properties for Selected Thermoset Resins

Physical Properties for Selected Thermoplastic Resins

Physical Properties for Selected Thermoplastic Resins

General Characteristics of Polymers

Sources Checked for Data in Record

  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Theodore J. Reinhart, 'Glossary of Terms', Engineered Plastics, ASM International, 1988
  • Hoechst Celanese Corporation, Dictionary of Fiber & Textile Technology (older version called Man-made Fiber and Textile Dictionary, 1965), Hoechst Celanese Corporation, Charlotte NC, 1990
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996
  • Sharon Blank, An introduction to plastics and rubbers in collections, Studies in Conservation, 35, 53-63, 1990
  • Tom Rowland, Noel Riley, A-Z Guide to Cleaning, Conserving and Repairing Antiques, Constable and Co., Ltd., London, 1981

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