Hear the story of east London’s plastic inventor, Alexander Parkes, with Susan Mossman, plastics and Parkes expert.

Alexander Parkes developed Parkesine, the first semi-synthetic plastic. He exhibited items made of this new material at the International Exhibition in London in 1862 and received much acclaim. To his chagrin, Parkesine was later to be renamed Xylonite, Ivoride and then finally Celluloid. Parkes’ eponymous material paved the way for the development of what we now know as the plastics industry.

Mossman – who has written on Parkes extensively – will enliven this remarkable inventor’s story who also described himself as an artist.

Please note that the gallery will open from 6pm for a chance to view the exhibition, with the talk beginning at 7pm.

Dr Susan Mossman has worked at the Science Museum, London, specialising in materials science and more recently directing various exhibition projects. She curated the 2007 Plasticity: 100 years of making plastics exhibition. Her publications include Fantastic Plastics and Early Plastics: perspectives 1850-1950.  Vice-Chair of the Plastics Historical Society, she is also a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, and council member of the London Materials Society.

Raw Materials explores the forgotten industrial history of plastic in east London around the River Lea. The exhibition reveals the story of east London’s central role in the invention and early development of plastics, showcasing some of the very first plastic objects alongside newly commissioned artwork which tell the story of this material’s remarkable journey. Read more about the exhibition here.

Raw Materials: Plastics has been made possible through the generous support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the project’s academic partner UCL.

Photo credit: Rob Harris

Reserve tickets here

Event details

Nunnery Gallery, 181 Bow Road, E3 2SJ

Thursday 6 June 2019, 7-8pm