The Science History Institute has teamed up with online learning platform Roundtable to offer you compelling courses from the history of science. This online course features the Institute’s Roger Turner, curator of instruments and artifacts, who will show what an ordinary shopping bag reveals about the science and politics of plastic.

Course Overview

You can learn a lot about plastic—and the society that makes it—by closely observing a familiar object through the lens of history. As activists and governments work to reduce plastic pollution, history can help us see how we got to where we are, and how it might have been different. A close reading of one ordinary bag reveals a story at once tragic, maddening, and inspiring.

Science History Institute curator Roger Turner will teach participants how to decode the symbols and messages printed on plastic. We’ll learn about the science of polymerization and the politics of recycling. We’ll discover why shoppers initially hated plastic bags and how industry persuaded customers to accept them. From safety warnings to resin codes to distinctive tiny flaps, bags reflect a contentious history of innovation and resistance. Bring your own bag to read along!

This is a live, virtual course hosted by Roundtable, which includes interactive opportunities and post-course recordings available for all course participants.

Cost

$44 for the course

Roger outdoors, looking up and smiling, wearing glasses and blue button-down shirt

About Roger Turner

Roger Turner is a historian of science and museum curator. He studies how our daily lives are affected by the invisible work of nerds, especially in chemistry and environmental science. When he’s not helping visitors understand how a stylish mid-century modern gas chromatograph measured water pollution, he writes for Distillations magazine and produces digital exhibits. He holds a PhD in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania.

About Roundtable

Roundtable by the 92nd Street Y, New York, is an online learning platform featuring live courses and Q&A sessions with some of the greatest minds of our time: world-renowned historians and scholars, Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, political pundits, and acclaimed food and wine experts, among others. All courses include interactive opportunities with instructors.


Featured image: Kroger Disposable Plastic Shopping Bag, 1990s.
Science History Institute

More events

Illustration of medicinal plants
March 9, 2024
For Families

Stories of Science

Join us in our museum EVERY SATURDAY for a family-friendly program that highlights strange and surprising stories from the history of science!

group of women standing around a lab table with periodic table in background
March 9, 2024
Drop-In Tours

Women in Chemistry Tour

Drop in for a tour highlighting the central role of women in shaping chemistry and the material sciences throughout history.

illustration of a man in an astrological chart with puffy clouds surrounding
March 11, 2024
Science on Tap

Books on Medical Astrology

Candace Hesselbart will dive into this unexpected discipline of medicine by examining publications on the topic housed within the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

    Republish

    Copy the above HTML to republish this content. We have formatted the material to follow our guidelines, which include our credit requirements. Please review our full list of guidelines for more information. By republishing this content, you agree to our republication requirements.