In Search of Lost Scents

In Search of Lost Scents


Caro Verbeek (VU)

Until recently the history of art has been treated primarily as a visual affair, which has particularly influenced curatorial strategies in art museums.  The umbrella project “In Search of Lost Scents” – a collaboration between the fragrance industry (IFF Hilversum) and various heritage institutions (including the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam) and the VU Amsterdam – has taken up the challenge to dispel this narrow perspective. An important part of this project is the ‘(re-)odorisation’ of museums, art academies and universities. In the past years, heritage scents have been brought to the attention and under the noses of a large and diverse audience by means of guided tours, exhibitions, workshops and symposia. Some of the observed effects of smell in these contexts: scent promotes inclusivity; scent is a conversation starter; smelling makes visitors feel more closely connected to the past and to artefacts.

The manuscript “Smelling Time – the Olfactory Dimension of Futurism (1909-1942)” forms the theoretical backbone of this endeavor. Yet even in this written part, smell is more than just a subject: this study is a plea to treat smelling as a methodological tool and a historical source in its own right.

Supported by: NWW, VU, IFF, Royal Academy of Arts

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Inger Leemans, Prof. Dr. Frits Scholten, Prof. Dr. Katja Kwastek, Bernardo Fleming (IFF, partner fragrance industry), Pauline Kintz (Rijksmuseum, partner, education department Rijksmuseum)

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