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Traveling Exhibits Service

Plastics Unwrapped

Can you imagine life before plastics? No waterproof raincoats? No plastic buckets? Humans existed without plastics for millennia. Now, we rely on plastics to meet our basic needs. They help keep us safe and healthy. They make our daily lives convenient in so many ways, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a world without them.

Only 50 years ago, we hardly used plastics. How did they go from being rare to being everywhere? Plastics Unwrapped, a new traveling exhibit from the Burke Museum, explores how material culture was changed―rapidly and perhaps permanently―plastics. Learn what life was like before plastics, how they are made, why they’re so convenient to use, and what happens after we throw them away.

Plastics were marketed as the “material of the future.” Now, that predication has come true. They will stay in landfills and in our oceans for hundreds, if not thousands of years. In order to counter the impact of plastic waste, we need to rethink our relationship with plastics. Visitors discover how, at Plastics Unwrapped.

Plastics Unwrapped is a traveling exhibit organized by the Burke Museum, University of Washington. The National tour has been generously sponsored by Boeing and the University of Washington.

Itinerary and Availability Information

Exhibit Specifications:


6 graphic text banners, 10 focus panels, timeline panel, 2 exhibit videos programmed on solid state players, 12 “Quote/Did You Know” panels, 7 “Cracking the Code” panels, 5 statistics panels, waste displays [medical waste, plastic bags, and marine waste including materials recovered from the Pacific gyre], ghost net, an EnviroSeat from Ford Motor Company, touchable prosthetic legs, Kevlar helmet, and additional objects for display. For a complete list of objects, please contact the Burke Museum Traveling Exhibits Service.

Participation Fee

Contact Mark R. Hand at (206) 616-0268 or mrhand@uw.edu.

Exhibit Support

Educational and programming resources, publicity kit, and exhibit technical manual sent in advance to receiving the show


Approx. 2,000 square feet




2,930 pounds est.




Inbound – Note: Additional shipping and/or custom fees apply for venues in Alaska and Canada

Tour Begins

September 2013

Plastics Unwrapped display panel
Plastics Unwrapped explores how material culture was changed by plastic
Recycling Information
Visitors learn about the complex relationship between humans and plastics in Plastics Unwrapped
Plastic Waste
Plastics Unwrapped sheds light on the environmental impact of plastic

Exhibit Support and Registrarial Requirements

As a host of Plastics Unwrapped, you will receive the following:

  • Complete registrarial information
  • Complete shipping, handling, and installation instructions
  • Public relations support in the form of digital press releases, images, and logos; digital graphic templates of promotional materials; and advice on promoting the show
  • Educational and programming resources

Registrarial Requirements

This exhibit has been designated Moderate security. Plastics Unwrapped is currently in development. For further details about exhibit contents, please contact the Burke Museum Traveling Exhibits Service.


  • Venues must have a limited-access gallery of sufficient area and wall space to accommodate the exhibition. An open mall, hallway, or lounge area is not acceptable.
  • Smoking, eating, and drinking are prohibited in the exhibition area, exhibitor receiving, and staging spaces.
  • No part of the exhibition may be stored, crated, or moved off the premises without prior authorization from the Burke Museum. Empty crates for all exhibit contents must be stored in secured, pest-free, and fire-protected storage.


  • Trained professional guards and/or personnel must be present in sufficient numbers to protect the exhibition adequately throughout the time it is on site (during truck off-loading, unpacking, installation, deinstallation, repacking, and truck loading) and on view.
  • The exhibition area must be locked and secured during closed hours. Alarms and/or guards during closed hours are preferred but not required.
  • Functioning fire-prevention systems and other fire-protection devices that meet local ordinances must be available in the exhibition, staging, and storage spaces.

Environmental Controls

  • The exhibition, staging, and storage areas should have a temperature range of 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity range of 40-60% relative humidity, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Venues without an HVAC system will need to provide climate data that reports consistent environmental conditions.
  • The venue must have environmental recording equipment (hygrothermographs or dataloggers) in the exhibition, staging, and storage areas. A member of the collections management or registration staff must make routine checks of the exhibition.
  • There must be no direct sunlight in the exhibition, staging, or storage areas. It should be diffused or eliminated. Light levels must be limited to 20 foot-candles. Light must be filtered for UV.

Exhibition Care

  • Handling of all exhibit contents during unpacking, installation, deinstallation, and repacking must be done by curatorial, registrarial, or by other trained and experienced museum professionals.
  • The exhibition may contain crates weighing up to 400 pounds. Venues will need to have the facility and staff or the ability to hire skilled personnel for crate delivery and movement.
  • The exhibition contents must be left in their crates for 24 hours before unpacking.

For more information, please contact:
Mark R. Hand
Traveling Exhibits Coordinator
Phone: 206-616-0268
E-mail: mrhand@u.washington.edu