From listening to furniture to smelling heritage. Cecilia Bembire introduces current research going on at University College London as part of a PhD project, in collaboration with The National Trust (heritage partner) and sensory experts Odournet (industry partner).
Smell of Heritage
Smells are all around us; they are important because they affect the way we feel, think and behave. Research shows that for some people the smell of freshly cut grass brings memories of their childhood; the smell of rosemary makes us alert and focused, and a pleasant smell in a shop encourages us to spend more money. And yet, we know very little about what the past smelled like.
This project explores the connection between smells and heritage. It tries to understand how smells can be part of the identity of a space (for example, the familiar smell of books in a historic library) and how heritage science can help capture, analyse, reproduce and archive smells that it’s worth preserving, by acquiring information about the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that constitute the smells.
We are now investigating the smells of Knole House, a historic house in Kent, as part of a project developed within the Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering in Arts Heritage and Archaeology (SEAHA) at UCL.
The aim of this project is to better understand how smells affect the way we look at our cultural heritage, and what we can do to preserve smells that we might want to share with future generations.
Who will benefit from this research? People who enjoy visiting museums, galleries, libraries and historic houses, and everyone interested in touching, listening and smelling the past!
Heritage practitioners will gain an understanding about the value and nature of historic smells in properties and collections, and the possibilities for them to be used to engage the public. Industries such as tourism will benefit from identifying and understanding how smells can be part of the identity of certain places, and part of the reason people are attracted to those places.
To find out more email the project: firstname.lastname@example.org of follow the project account on twitter: Smell of Heritage @ucqbbem