Moist wheat bread', 'old socks': Why scientists are bottling the smells of old books

published 25.06.2020 01:26

by ( Supplied: from abc.net.au
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The exhibitions at the New York Public Library and Oxford's Bodleian Library have been postponed because of COVID-19, but Mr Michel says all the original scent extractions have all been "deep-frozen", ready to be inhaled at some point next year.

"In years to come we will have to synthesise that odour, having identified the composition [of chemicals] we can do that, but for that first generation of the people who come to the exhibition, they will be getting a few molecules of the Magna Carta or the First Folio in their nostrils," Mr Michel says.

Scents can also hint at how the books were made — including the type of paper, ink and bindings favoured in different eras — and even reveal interesting details about their owners, Mr Michel says.

"She explained her concept for this idea of an exhibition of books in all five senses, because the experience of a book is such a wonderful sensory moment," Mr Michel explains.

Mr Michel says museums tend to focus on visitors' visual experiences, ignoring other senses like smell, which can reveal a more complete picture of the world around us.