The Boston Globe has a fascinating piece on the growing movement to incorporate smells into the historical record and the technology that is allowing us to ‘record’ scents.
To put smells in a historical context is to add a whole dimension to how we understand the world. Boston’s Back Bay, for instance, has at different times been filled with the smells of a saltwater marsh, a cesspool, horses, and car exhaust. Some smells vanish, new ones arise, and some shift in a way that tells a cultural story.
The jasmine and leather notes of a Chanel perfume from 1927 help us understand the boldly androgynous women of the flapper era, just as the candied sweetness of the latest Victoria’s Secret fragrance tells us something about femininity today. What we smell in our cities, homes, and natural spaces is just as much a part of our lives as the what we see, hear, and touch.
It’s a fantastic article that touches on everything from the neuroscience of smell, to the cultural meaning of certain scents, to the science of storing and recreating odours from the past.
Link to fantastic article ‘A Whiff of History’.