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February 19, 2024

illustration of fairies

Salt Fairies, illustration of fairies representing the elements sodium and chlorine, or salt, which is used to preserve food, from Fairy Land of Chemistry: Explorations in the World of Atoms, 1887. 📷 Science History Institute

Humans have been preserving food for millennia, and while the methods have changed—salt, ice, Saran Wrap—the reasons have not. Life before refrigerators, packaged food, and canned vegetables included dreaded diseases like scurvy, which killed more than two million sailors from the 1400s to the 1800s because fresh food did not last long on ships. Today we can fill portable coolers with picnic essentials like sandwiches and cheese for a day at the beach or freeze fresh strawberries to enjoy any time of the year.

News & Notes

screenshot of museum visitor

The Institute’s Alexis Pedrick shows off the beloved Teddy Ruxpin animatronic toy on display in our museum. 📷 WHYY

WHYY’s ‘You Oughta Know’ Program Features Science History Institute

The Science History Institute was featured on the February 2 episode of You Oughta Know, WHYY’s weekly TV program that spotlights people, places, and events you might not know about in the Philadelphia region. Alexis Pedrick, the Institute’s director of digital engagement, takes viewers on an engaging tour of our museum and library while deftly describing all the ways we tell the stories behind the science. “I think a lot of people will say we’re like a hidden gem in the city of Philadelphia, but we really want to be just a gem, we want to be known, and we want you to come and explore science with us.”

WATCH AT 22:50

Programs & Events

All events are free and take place online or at the Science History Institute at 315 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia unless otherwise noted.

Joseph Priestley Society

The GLP-1 Revolution: From Diabetes and Obesity to Alzheimer’s and PCOS

Thursday, February 22, 2024

1–2pm ET


Our February JPS virtual talk features a panel discussion focused on where the research stands and how scientists and drugmakers are discovering an increasingly broad list of applications for drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy—and learning more about their limitations along the way. This event is coproduced by the American Chemical Society as part of its ACS Webinars series. JPS talks are free, but registration is required.

Museum Programs & Activities

Stories of Science


February 24, 2024

March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, 2024

10am–5pm ET


Join us in our museum EVERY SATURDAY for Stories of Science, a family-friendly program that highlights the many strange and surprising stories from the history of science! Our fun, interactive activities are designed for science lovers of all ages. Admission is free and reservations are not required.

glass bottles of dye

Glass bottles of various dyes on display in our BOLD: Color from Test Tube to Textile exhibition. 📷 Science History Institute/Meredith Edlow

Museum Programs & Activities

Dyes & Textiles Tour

Saturday, February 24, 2024

2pm ET


Join our museum’s Gallery Guides for a Dyes & Textiles “drop-in” tour highlighting the remarkable scientific properties of natural dyes and textiles, the technology behind synthetic clothing, and the impact of fashion on human health and the environment. Admission is free and reservations are not required.

Classes & Workshops

How Science Invented the Myth of Race


February 27–June 18, 2024

6pm–7pm ET


The Science History Institute has teamed up with online learning platform Roundtable by the 92nd Street Y, New York to offer you compelling courses from the history of science. Join our Distillations podcast team for a five-session course examining the scientific origins of support for racist theories, practices, and policies. This programming is part of Innate, an ongoing project that explores the roots of racism in American science and medicine. The course is free, but registration is required.

Museum Programs & Activities

First Friday: March Mad-Scientist-Ness

Friday, March 1, 2024

5pm–7pm ET


This First Friday, science fiction meets March Madness! Explore the bizarre side of science with Mad Science MadLibs, mysterious instruments, and a sci-fi-inspired photo booth. You can also vote for your favorite fictional mad scientists in each round of our Mad Science Bracket. First Fridays are free and open to the public. Attendees will receive a 10% discount to National Mechanics restaurant.

Museum Programs & Activities

Women in Chemistry Tour

Saturday, March 9, 2024

2pm ET


Join our museum’s Gallery Guides for a “drop-in” Women in Chemistry Tour highlighting the central role of women in shaping chemistry and the material sciences throughout history. Admission is free and no reservations are necessary.


portable cooler

Magikooler Leisure Chest, portable metal ice chest “for storing and refrigerating foods and the like,” 1950s. 📷 Science History Institute

Collections Blog

A Chilling History

On the science and technology of portable coolers.


Distillations Magazine

Processed: Food Science and the Modern Meal

The early 20th century was an especially rich time for creating ways to process and preserve food.


Distillations Magazine

The Age of Scurvy

In a time of warring empires and transoceanic voyages, sailors dreaded scurvy more than any other disease.


Collections Blog

I Spy a Tiny Camera Mystery

What happens when an archivist finds film in an old camera?


Selections from Our Digital Collections

wrapped cheese

Wrap Yourself a Chunk of Cheese Business, ad for Durafilm transparent food packaging, after 1957. 📷 Science History Institute

The Science History Institute Digital Collections house more than 13,300 curated items, including rare and modern books, scientific instruments, letters, photographs, advertisements, videos, oral histories, and more:

Scientist Spotlight

Herbert H. Dow

Portrait of Herbert H. Dow, ca. 1900. 📷 Science History Institute

Herbert Henry Dow

From the brine wells in Midland, Michigan, a young Herbert Henry Dow (1866–1930) launched his chemical business with a clever, cost-saving method for extracting bromine from brine. He founded the Dow Chemical Company in 1897, and after several successful diversifications and reorganizations, the company began producing plastics in the 1930s. One of Dow’s first ventures into the consumer products industry was with Saran Wrap, a thin, clingy plastic wrap introduced in 1949 that quickly became popular for preserving food items stored in the refrigerator.


On View in Our Museum

object explorer soda bottle

A museum visitor learns about the science behind a plastic soda bottle at our Object Explorer touch table. 📷 Science History Institute

The Science History Institute Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10am to 5pm. Admission is free.

Hach Gallery

Horiba Exhibit Hall

Building Façade

Museum Mezzanine

du Pont Gallery

du Pont Lobby

Support Our Mission

women putting food in a freezer

That Soft, Velvety Feel Tells You It’s Saran Wrap, promotional booklet for Dow Chemical Company’s food packaging product, 1953. 📷 Science History Institute

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