Slovenian researchers help analyse UK’s Trump blimp

The baby Trump inflatable flying above a protest march in Parliament Square in London.
The baby Trump inflatable flying above a protest march in Parliament Square in London in July 2018. Photo: dpa/STA

Slovenian researchers have helped the Museum of London analyse the composition of a huge baby Donald Trump blimp as part of the museum’s efforts to preserve the work and exhibit it in its protest collection.

Made from PVC material, the 6-metre-high inflatable caricature of Trump became a symbol of British protest against the former US president when he visited the UK in 2018 and 2019.

The museum received the work as a donation two years ago and wanted to better understand how such material behaves in the long run and how it should be stored and exhibited to be preserved.

It thus contacted scientists at University College London and the University of Ljubljana to analyse the composition of the plastic.

Young researcher Tjaša Rijavec from the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology at the University of Ljubljana told the STA on 27 January that Slovenian scientists had taken part in the interdisciplinary science heritage research that studied how stable the blimp was for exhibitions and what risks this entailed.

The Science Heritage Laboratory in Ljubljana has analysed the material and studied the stability of plasticisers using accelerated degradation tests.

The loss of plasticisers and the associated loss of flexibility of the material are problematic when storing PVC items, which can lead to surface deformation and the appearance of cracks, Rijavec explained.

The cooperation of the Ljubljana lab, University College London and the museum has resulted in developing mathematical models and recommendations for storage.

The museum has recently reinflated the blimp, designed by Matt Bonner and constructed by Imagine Inflatables of Leicester, to test it before installing in its protest collection.

The collection includes artefacts relating to the suffrage movement, as well as placards, badges and posters from protests for a variety of causes, including marches against the Iraq war.