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Friday, June 1 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
01. (Research and Technical Studies) An American Icon in Plastic: The Technical Analysis, Study, & Treatment of a Early Edition 1959 Barbie

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An early edition (c. 1959) polyvinyl chloride Barbie™ doll afflicted with bleeding autograph ink and white leg efflorescence was studied with chemical analysis and computed tomography to understand her construction and symptoms. Comparison with a second Barbie™ of slightly later manufacture (c. 1960) shows how the early design of Mattel’s flagship toy was refined including a shift from all-PVC construction to body parts of different plastics and associated changes in mold design. Contrary to a more frequently encountered “sticky leg syndrome,” wherein plasticizer migrates from the PVC to the surface as a tacky liquid, this doll exhibited a waxy white stearate bloom from the mid-thighs to the ankles. In addition, the doll was autographed by Ruth Handler, the original designer of BarbieTM and a cofounder of the Mattel Corporation. Her signature and the date are now barely legible, as the once sharp lines of ink have migrated within the PVC plastic. The dolls were imaged with computed tomography, multi-spectral imaging, and X-radiography, and the composition of their component parts was discerned with X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry, Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, and Raman spectroscopy. Collectively, this information helped the team decide whether the compound exuding from the 1959 doll’s legs has an ongoing function in the plastic, whether its utility was limited to the manufacturing phase, and whether it will recur. Once the stearate was identified, the decision to treat or remove the waxy bloom from the Barbie™ could be rationalized and achieved.

avatar for Odile Madden

Odile Madden

Senior Scientist, The Getty Conservation Institute
Odile Madden is Senior Scientist and leader of the Modern and Contemporary Art Research Initiative at The Getty Conservation Institute. Prior to joining the GCI, she was Research Scientist at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute where she developed a modern materials... Read More →


Morgan L Burgess

Fellow, National Museum of American History
Morgan Burgess graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in 2012 with a B.A. in Classical Archaeology and a minor in Studio Art. Her first conservation experiences were as an undergrad at the Mugello Valley Arcaheological Project: Poggio Colla Field School in Vicchio, Italy. After... Read More →
avatar for Marci Jefcoat Burton

Marci Jefcoat Burton

Engen Conservation Fellow, National Air and Space Museum
Marci Jefcoat Burton is currently an Engen Conservation Fellow at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM), Smithsonian Institution. In 2018, she graduated with an MA in Conservation from the UCLA/Getty Conservation of Archeological and Ethnographic Materials program, after completing... Read More →

David Hunt

Physical / Forensic Anthropologist, D-ABFA, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
David Hunt is a physical and forensic anthropologist and archaeologist specializing in mortuary analysis and the curation of skeletal remains. He is the physical anthropology collections manager at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History where he oversees... Read More →
avatar for Ellen Pearlstein

Ellen Pearlstein

Professor, UCLA
Ellen Pearlstein is a founding faculty member in the graduate UCLA/Getty Conservation Program, where she incorporates Indigenous instruction into the understanding and care of California basketry and featherwork. Her publications include edited volumes Conservation of Featherwork... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 3:30pm - 4:00pm MDT
Texas Ballroom (Foyer outside Ballrooms - Poster Session) Marriott Marquis Houston