Hey, kid. Wanna huff a banjo?
June 25, 2020 7:49 AM   Subscribe

The Institute for Digital Archaeology is analyzing and attempting to reproduce historical scents.

Currently postponed exhibits at the The Bodleian Library and the New York Public Library will feature the scents of Edmond Malone’s First Folio, a 1217 copy of Magna Carta, James Madison’s copy of the Federalist Papers, books from the private collections of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, and a collection of rare Egyptian papyri, including fragments of one of the earliest known copies of the Iliad. Future scent reproductions will include textiles, timepieces and musical instruments.
ABC Radio National interview: The Odor of History
posted by zamboni (11 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sorry, the Bodleian link should go here.
posted by zamboni at 7:50 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


What did the Medieval world smell like? Was it as disgustingly ripe as we have sometimes been lead to believe? Research indicates that the answer would appear to be…not quite. Life may have been less hygienic and more fetid than our modern sanitised world, but not irredeemably so.
Also: Whores Of Yore: Sex & Smells In The Middle Ages.
posted by adamvasco at 8:32 AM on June 25 [3 favorites]


I'm glad they picked a Windsor zither banjo because it will hardly smell of anything. My gourd banjo smells of dead goat and rotten pumpkins and when played by me, sounds worse than it smells.
posted by scruss at 8:36 AM on June 25 [5 favorites]


See also the Osmotheque, museum of scent at Versailles.

I have an old used much loved book of history once redolent of strong cheap tobacco, sadly no longer smelling of much of anything, and so no longer providing quite the madeleine quality I so treasured in it.

(But that nasty moldy mildewy scent that comes in some books - apparently that will never die.)
posted by BWA at 9:16 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Neat! (you jest, but I really like the way the inside of my old longneck smells).
posted by aspersioncast at 9:23 AM on June 25


Here in Amsterdam, there's an Arts organization called Mediamatic that runs something called Odorama. They have workshops on making perfumes but also a series of talks each oriented around smell. Different Artists and Scientists speak about smell and, simultaneously, they broadcast the scent(s) across the whole room.

My favorite was probably Ambergris, and I am sad that I missed Petrichor. They haven't done books but there was one about the smell of Egyptian mummies.

They are continuing and there is in fact one tonight. It is being broadcast over the Internet and they sent us smell packets in advance which we have to open up when prompted...
posted by vacapinta at 9:34 AM on June 25 [5 favorites]


I bought my first banjo really cheap from a teenage girl in a trailer park. The banjo and gig bag reeked of stale cigarette smoke and teenage girl perfume. The smell gradually faded but I spent enough time practicing that I grew to sort of enjoy it.
posted by Drab_Parts at 10:04 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


The lab found traces of banjo, Magna Carta, and Shakespeare. Kids are callin’ it Old Spice.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:10 AM on June 25 [6 favorites]


Life may have been less hygienic and more fetid than our modern sanitised world, but not irredeemably so.

Probably no worse that crowded public transportation during rush hour at the height of summer. Though I don't recall having encountered a smelly banjo on any of those trips.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:06 AM on June 25


Probably no worse that crowded public transportation during rush hour at the height of summer. Though I don't recall having encountered a smelly banjo on any of those trips.

For free: abandoned banjo, never played
posted by Going To Maine at 11:31 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


The Scented Jars (The Pavilion of Memories) was a rather evocative scene in 'The Night Circus'...
posted by ovvl at 4:39 PM on June 25


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