What’s That Smell? Researchers Hope To Recreate Historic Scents From Europe’s Past

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Passers-by and horse-drawn traffic circa 1895 on Jamaica Street in Glasgow, Scotland.

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We know a lot about the Industrial Revolution. What it looked like, its historical significance and details of life during the time. But what about how it smelled? A new team of researchers, historians and computer scientists will explore the answer to that question and others like it. Funded by the European Union, the team behind the $3.3 million project called Odeuropa will spend three years identifying and recreating historical smells. It was announced this week and begins in January. “Smell and scent are really special, because they’re essential to our memory,” said William Tullett, a historian who studies smell and an Odeuropa researcher. “Smell is one of those things that really does make our lives worth living. It’s one of those things that adds enjoyment to our daily lives.” Maybe it’s the rich aromas of a late 17th century London coffee house. Or the smell of a burning cigar. Either way, Tullet says, scents contain context for different historical periods and geographic locations. The team will create an online encyclopedia mapping out European smells, …

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