There’s a lot of public debate surrounding the elimination of drinking straws and other plastic disposables piling up in landfills and oceans around the world. Oddly, museums have the opposite challenge; figuring out how to preserve artifacts made from plastic.
Take Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk spacesuit for example, just one of the many partly plastic museum pieces at risk of falling apart. The spacesuit was designed to withstand the elements of space, however, it wasn’t meant to stand the test of time. The suit was constructed from 21 different layers of plastic—including nylon, Mylar, and Teflon, to name a few, but a layer of neoprene has proven to be particularly problematic. When the risk of damage became critical in 2006, the suit was removed from its public display at the National Air and Space Museum and sent into storage to lessen the risk of degradation.
Fortunately, the deterioration was stopped in time. Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit will ultimately be displayed again, in a case specially made for the purpose, which will be kept at 63°F and 30 percent humidity. Museum staff hope to have it ready by the 50th anniversary of the moon landing next year.
image source: https://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/A11NAAFlownSuit.html