Die Gläserne Kuh, die Gläserne Frau, das Gläserne Pferd und der Gläserne Mann in einem weißen Raum mit gehängten Bildern im Hintergrund.


An interdisciplinary research platform on the long-term preservation of exhibits made of plastic

The Project

The research project was conducted by the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum jointly with the course of studies on Art Technology and Conservation of Works of Art at the Academy of Fine Arts Dresden, the Chair of Organic Chemistry of Polymers at the Technische Universität Dresden and the Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences (CICS) at the University of Applies Sciences.

The primary objective was to ensure the long-term preservation of the various Transparent Figures in the collection of the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, a collection that includes two Transparent Men, one Transparent Woman on permanent loan from the Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin, one Transparent Pregnant Woman, and one Transparent Cow. The objects can be viewed via the Museum’s online database (in German language).

The Transparent Figures are the best-known objects to have been produced by the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum and, throughout the 20th century, they have been put on display to millions of visitors in all kinds of exhibition formats. Even today they still represent key objects in the permanent exhibition of the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum. But these Transparent Figures are now starting to show signs of significant damage for which no conservation or restoration concept has yet been found. Indeed, the rapid degradation of the synthetic materials developed in the 19th and 20th century has so far not been adequately studied. What’s more, too little is known about the production, exhibition and reception history of the Transparent Figures to help define the possibilities and limitations of any future restoration from the aspect of conservation ethics. Given this context, it would seem at present that the long-term preservation of these spectacular body models is not possible.

As part of the interdisciplinary research platform, a scientifically founded and sustainable conservation and restoration concept is to be drawn up to secure the long-term preservation and, therefore, exhibition capability of the various Transparent Figures, one that is also transferable to other museum collections worldwide.

International closing conference

On September 19-20, 2019, the results of the research project were presented at the international final conference PLASTICS FOREVER? RESEARCHING AND PRESERVING HISTORICAL EXHIBITION ICONS.

More information about the conference (in German Language only)


Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden

Study course on Art Technology, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art at the Academy of Fine Arts Dresden

Chair of Organic Chemistry of Polymers at the Dresden University of Technology

Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences (CICS) at the University of Applied Sciences Cologne