New project to recreate smells from centuries ago

What did the sixteenth century smell like? A team of researchers wants to find out. Scientists, historians and experts have embarked on a $3.3 million project to identify and recreate the aromas from the 16th and early 20th centuries. The project is called "Odeuropa: Negotiating Olfactory and Sensory Experiences in Cultural Heritage Practice and Research". They will develop an online encyclopaedia of smells that will include biographies of those that are specific to past times. The website will include insights into the emotions created by the smells in bygone centuries.

The team said: "Smells shape our experience of the world, yet we have little sensory information about the past." It lists questions it hopes researchers will answer. These are: "What are the key scents...that have shaped our cultures? How can we extract sensory data from…digital text? How can we represent smell…in a database? How should we safeguard our olfactory heritage? And – Why should we?" The team wants people to be aware of many smells. It said: "We are trying to encourage people to consider both the foul and the fragrant elements of Europe's olfactory past."