Wednesday 21st June 2023


11.00am - 12.15pm


Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan - Professor of Design History and Theory, Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, University of Portsmouth, UK




Focusing on the collections and exhibitions programme at the Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP), the only UK Accredited museum with a focus on plastics, this presentation will demonstrate how by learning from the past, manufacturers, designers, and consumers of plastics can make better informed choices. MoDiP's purpose is to use its Designated collection to develop understanding of the value of plastics within historical, contemporary, and sustainable contexts. Exploring the museum’s objects that encapsulate a variety of uses and activities — taking into account the clothes we wear, the games we play, and the environments in which we live — this keynote will show how valuable plastics, as a materials group, have been when used appropriately. It will also acknowledge the negative impact the poor use and disposal of plastics materials has on the environment and health. 

Roundtable themes: The Care and Curation of Plastics 

  • Historical and contemporary cultural perceptions of plastics
  • Curatorial relationships with plastics
  • The seen and unseen uses of plastics
  • Sustainability and the green consumer
  • What can we learn about the future of plastics from their past?



Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan

University of Portsmouth



Dr Louise Dennis

Museum of Design in Plastics, Arts University Bournemouth

The Plastics that Made Us


The care and curation of plastics


Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan

University of Portsmouth


  • Johanna Agerman Ross

Victoria and Albert Museum

  • Dr Helen Peavitt 

Science Museum

  • Dr Susan Mossman

Plastics Historical Society

Speaker Biographies:

Dr Louise Dennis is Curator of the Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP) at Arts University Bournemouth. As a qualified museums professional, Louise gained several years’ experience working with a range of interesting collections of various materials from those relating to the brewing industry, ceramics, jewellery, historical glassware, and military history.  She completed her PhD, A Matter of Material: Exploring the Value of the Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP), at the University of Brighton in 2020. It explores how a museum focusing on a single material family can contribute to the societal and museological comprehension of design in plastics. The museum’s audiences include researchers and academics within and beyond the AUB, museum professionals, the design and plastics industries, and the wider public of all ages in the UK and elsewhere.

Johanna Agerman Ross is the Curator of Twentieth Century and Contemporary Furniture and Product Design at the V&A, London. At the V&A she heads up the Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures programme and all its activities across displays, symposiums and acquisitions. She recently co-curated the currently internationally touring exhibition Plastics: Remaking Our World with colleagues from the Vitra Design Museum and V&A Dundee. She also conceived of and co-curated the V&A's new design gallery Design 1900-Now, which opened in 2021. Before joining the museum Johanna founded the international quarterly design journal Disegno in 2012 and she has previously worked at the Design Museum in London and as an editor at Icon. 

Honorary Research Associate of the Science Museum Group. Chair, Plastics Historical Society. Latterly Head of Collection, Petrie Museum, UCL (May 2022-May 23). At the Science Museum, London, she directed and led various exhibition projects and was Senior Curator of Materials Science. Susan has curated a number of exhibitions on materials science and plastics related themes, including Challenge of Materials and Plasticity and is curatorial advisor to the Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP) and a consultant for The Plastics Metamorphoses Project, University of Lisbon (funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology, Portugal). She is on the committee of the London Materials Society. Her academic background and publications are in materials science, archaometallurgy and the history of science and technology; current research interests include the sustainability of plastics as well as their degradation processes.

Dr Helen Peavitt is Curator for Consumer and Environmental Technology at the Science Museum London, where she combines her childhood love of science with an academic background in social history and a fascination with how objects, people and environments interact. She has a wide range of curatorial interests (with collections spanning everything from Barbie dolls and household appliances to fire engines and torpedoes), and exhibition, media and written outputs. Her first book Refrigerator: The Story of Cool in the Kitchen was published by Reaktion in 2017. 

Deborah Sugg Ryan is Professor of Design History and Theory in the School of Art, Design and Performance at the University of Portsmouth. Her recent research focuses on the design and material culture of the home, the subject of her recent book, Ideal Homes, 1918-39: Uncovering the History and Design of the Interwar House (Manchester University Press, 2020). She was on the advisory boards and contributed catalogue essays on consumer product design to the V&A’s Food: Bigger Than the Plate (2019) and British Design 1948–2012: Innovation in the Modern Age (2012). Deborah has appeared in numerous television and radio programmes, notably BBC Two’s A House Through Time and BBC Radio 4’s Trading Spaces. She is currently writing a history of the modern kitchen.