The Trump Baby Blimp: to Inflate or not to Inflate?

As part of an excellent group effort in collaboration with the Museum of London and the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, the doctoral student Tjaša Rijavec, presented her research on the Trump Baby Blimp at Futuretalks 21.

The blimp is made of PVC, which is a modern material prone to degradation, which is the subject of Tjaša’s dissertation. With its imposing 6-m height and 3-m width it represents the largest PVC object in the collection of the Museum of London. 

                        © Museum of London/Photographer John Chase

Long-term preservation of PVC primarily depends on polymer and plasticizer stability, and these also depend on object display and storage. Tjaša used small PVC inflatables as proxies for the blimp and subjected these to accelerated degradation. Based on the results it was possible to conclude that a significant loss of plasticiser is unlikely during a 6-month exhibition at regular display conditions. Additionally, size exclusion chromatography results showed that the Blimp material has a significantly higher molecular weight than any PVC material in the HSLL Historic Reference Material Collection and certainly much higher than PVC samples that are prone to cracking.

At UCL, a mathematical model was created to model the loss of plasticiser from the Trump blimp over time in different scenarios. The model predicts that the Trump blimp artwork will not undergo significant plasticiser loss for at least one year as currently stored. The loss in an open ventilated scenario will be higher, but still quite insignificant at short times and it is expected that it won’t pose a threat to the material integrity during a one-week exhibition.

The research enabled our colleagues from the Museum of London to assess the environmental risks to the object during storage and exhibitions. Small swatches of the blimp material will be stored with or exposed nearby the object, to enable long-term monitoring of degradation of the Blimp.

Futuretalks is one of the most important conference series focusing on smart and intelligent solutions, both in the development, production and the preservation of modern design and contemporary art. The presentation was co-authored by Jannicke Langfeldt1, Argyro Gili2, Abby Moore1, Tjaša Rijavec3, Rose King2, Katherine Curran2 and Matija Strlič3 (1Museum of London; 2UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage; 3Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, University of Ljubljana).

For more details about the project please contact Tjaša.

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