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Playing Dirty

A new outdoor exhibition filled with sewage, smog, and species both invasive and endangered, Playing Dirty explores the intersections of environmentalism, education, and fun!

On view through October 2023

Drawn from new acquisitions, Playing Dirty explores the boom of environmentally themed board games, role-playing simulations, and learning tools in the 1970s, a time of increased environmental awareness among the public.


large reproductions of board games installed on windows

Street view of Playing Dirty.

Science History Institute/Meredith Edlow

By the start of the decade, we’d heard about the dangers of pollutants in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. On the news, we’d seen oil covering the beaches of Santa Barbara, California. And in Washington, the federal government established the Environmental Protection Agency. The games on display show how those environmental concerns spread to dining room tables and classroom desks through the act of play.

Playing Dirty features large-scale reproductions installed on the façade of the Institute’s building at 315 Chestnut Street in Old City Philadelphia.