Welcome to histalu.orgThe site for the history of aluminium

The Jean Plateau-IHA Collection

The IHA in partnership with Jean Plateau (1923-2019) who assembled, since 1986, a vast collection of objects that have played an important role in the evolution of aluminium and its varied uses.

With nearly 20,000 pieces dating from the 19th to the 21st centuries, the Jean Plateau-IHA Collection is regularly exhibited in France and around the world.

The collection allows the public to familiarize themselves with the products which, from gold smithery to toys, from household arts to design, testify to the multiplicity of uses of this light-weight metal and the importance it has taken on in the contemporary world.

An International Standard

The IHA’s collection is unique in the world, spectacular and informative, and while the collection remains private, has become a worldwide standard, which is attested to by frequent loans to museums and cultural institutions.
In addition to the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Paris, the Espace Alu museum in Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne and the Musée des Gueules Rouges in Tourves, whose permanent exhibitions present parts of the Collection, objects from the collection have appeared or appear in many prestigious temporary exhibitions.

A Celebration of Aluminium

The Collection is the result of years of research in antique shops and flea markets. About 20,000 objects, that together form a world of aluminium – grandiose, rich, and informative– form a unique ensemble.

The Collection is first and foremost a show. It captures the richness and beauty of aluminium pieces, the oldest of which date back to the "invention" of metal in the middle of the 19th century. It illustrates the extraordinary diversity of uses, the fruit of the ingenuity of industrialists and artisans, who developed them. The objects in the collection also convey and bear witness to the emotions and stories of those who made them and lived with them; we can think of numerous examples, such as the relationship soldiers from the first World War had with the object they carried into the trenches, or the milk bottle from our own childhoods.

Many of the objects in the Collection are deceptive in appearance: to see them, you would swear they were made of gold, silver, bronze, or more prosaically iron or steel. Aluminium has achieved a modest victory, it has been able to make itself indispensable by discreetly taking - here and there - the place of more prestigious or more common competitors.

Principal Areas

Tableware, jewellery, goldsmithing, transport, optics, household objects, kitchen utensils, office objects, industry, war, camping, sports, decoration, measuring instruments, packaging, food, perfumery, advertisements, books, crafts, folk art, coins, and medals.

A Mirror of The Contemporary World

The IHA’s collection is an enormous source of information. There is a lot of technical information on metal working, assembly processes, surface treatment, as well as on the joint use of several materials. As far as different uses are concerned, aluminium reflects the changes that marked the 20th century: the leisure civilization, the explosion of transport, the generalization of advertising, the industrialization of packaging, the evolution of decorative styles... There are many areas in which aluminium has created new markets or is substituted for older materials.

The geographical contours of this world are those of the planet: if Europe predominates, the other continents are also represented, testifying, both in uses and in ways of doing things, to cultural specificities.

The collection does not claim to be exhaustive: price and size constraints, and in some cases rarity, explain the absence of essential parts in the in the history of aluminium such as spacecraft or aircraft. Similarly, most disposable packaging is not likely to survive long enough to be caught in the collector's net. But the collection’s richness and diversity exceed the attraction of this light-weight metal alone.