A whiff of history

When smells vanish, we lose a whole dimension of the world. Now there’s a movement to change that.

By Courtney Humphries

Think of some of your most powerful memories, and there’s likely a smell attached: the aroma of suntan lotion at the beach, the sharpness of freshly mown grass, the floral trail of your mother’s perfume. “Scents are very much linked to memory,” says perfumer Christophe Laudamiel. “They are linked to remembering the past but also learning from experiences.”

But despite its primacy in our lives, our sense of smell is often overlooked when we record our history. We tend to connect with the past visually – we look at objects displayed in a museum, photographs in a documentary, the writing in a manuscript. Sometimes we might hear a vintage speech, or touch an ancient artifact and imagine what it was like to use it. But our knowledge of the past is almost completely deodorized.

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