Paper: Towards Olfactory Information Extraction from Text – A Case Study on Detecting Smell Experiences in Novels

This weekend, Marieke van Erp presented a paper on extracting olfactory information from English text at the 4th Joint SIGHUM Workshop on Computational Linguistics for Cultural Heritage, Social Sciences, Humanities and Literature, organised in conjunction with COLING 2020. The paper was presented in a poster presentation, sadly not in Barcelona, but in a gather.town session.

For this paper, we did a first set of experiments into how we can best recognise references to smell in texts, which is an important task in Odeuropa’s Work Package 3.  For this paper, we first created an annotated dataset, i.e. a set of texts in which humans (= Odeuropa team members) marked whether the text described a reference to a smell. We then created patterns based on a set of smell related words from the Cambridge dictionary of English to such as ‘smells like X’ and ‘a Y fragrance’ where X and Y can stand for nouns and adjectives. We ran the patterns over a large set of texts to see if we could find more expressions referring to smells in text as compared to only using the dictionary smell keywords, and our experiments showed that patterns indeed worked better than keywords. In Odeuropa, we will further build on this, as well as try out other methods (such as machine learning) to recognise references to smells in Latin, English, Italian, German, French, Dutch, and Slovene texts from 1600 – 1920 across different genres.

This research paper was based on the Ryan Brate’s MSc thesis work which he did for the University of Amsterdam’s Data Science degree programme under the supervision of prof. dr. Paul Groth and dr. Marieke van Erp. Full citation:

Brate, Ryan, Paul Groth, and Marieke van Erp. “Towards Olfactory Information Extraction from Text: A Case Study on Detecting Smell Experiences in Novels.” In Proceedings of the The 4th Joint SIGHUM Workshop on Computational Linguistics for Cultural Heritage, Social Sciences, Humanities and Literature, pp. 147-155. 2020.

Creating the visual identity of a project on smell

How do you design a logo for an academic research project that covers olfactory heritage, history, artificial intelligence….and looks good?  Caro Verbeek, olfactory art historian, interviewed Kate McLean lecturer, artist, designer, and researcher of Sensory Maps on how she created the visual logo for Odeuropa.

Dr. Kate McLean

 

You are famous for designing smell maps and guiding scent walks. What exactly are these and why do you engage in them?

Smell maps, or smellscape maps, are depictions of human olfactory experience in a place at a moment in time. The data (smells) depicted on the maps is collected by inhabitants of the city being mapped through a process known as smell walking. Smell walking is a walk in which you register what you smell in preference to what you see or hear – a deliberate foregrounding of the nose as the sense of primary information (for a short period of time).

You designed a visual identity or logo for Odeuropa. What were the major challenges?

The major challenge in designing a logo for Odeuropa was how to depict a project at its onset… the Odeuropa project was funded precisely because it covers ground not previously explored; use of AI, focus on smell, digital and physical, history and future archive. The other challenge was to understand the smellmark as a part of the identity and to complement what Frank Bloem’s work communicates.

How did you afford the logo ‘smellability’?

The logo’s smellability derives from its wafting forms that make up an “O” and an “e” – the fluid, soft edged strokes are designed to resemble smoke, which is the closest visual conceptual link humans have for smell – we can imagine smoke manifest and swirl. The green and purple colours are complementary to signify the various dualities within the project.

Your logo is part of a multi-sensory whole. How do the visual aspects connect to the olfactory ones (by Frank Bloem)?

Frank Bloem’s smellmark takes its inspiration from the letters of the word Odeuropa, as does the logo… the connection between visual and olfactory is through letter forms – apposite for a project which will analyse texts.

 

New Ph.D. position available in Odeuropa project (ARU Cambridge & VU Amsterdam)

This PhD project will offer the student an opportunity to explore the use of smell – both stories connected to smell and physical scents – in cultural heritage institutions in Europe in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The aim of the PhD project is to provide an overview of smell’s historical and continued role in heritage and museum practice. However, the PhD student will also be given support to identify and follow their own nose when it comes to choosing case studies for detailed examination. Methodologies from museum studies, public history, and cultural history will be deployed as part of the project. The chief aims of the PhD project will be to:

  • Understand how scents have been used in museums and heritage spaces.
  • Trace the different narratives and stories told about smells and smelling in these spaces.
  • Understand how scents and narratives shaped the public’s experience of museums and heritage.

This project will involve the use of a varied collection of sources, including archival material relating to the history of smell; literature relating to museums, exhibitions, and heritage practice; museum site-visits and observation; and interviews with curators and heritage professionals about how they have used smell in their work. This studentship forms part of the ‘Odeuropa’ project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004469. The aim of this project is to identify and preserve the smells of Europe as part of our cultural heritage. ODEUROPA: Negotiating Olfactory and Sensory Experiences in Cultural Heritage Practice and Research is the first European initiative to use artificial intelligence (AI) to investigate the importance of smells and smelling in connection with works of art, places, people and traditions. You can read more about the aims of the project, its methodology, and consortium on the project website. The project and PhD studentship will start on the 1st of January 2021 and run for 3 years.

This is a double PhD degree run between Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge (ARU) and the Vrije University (VU) in Amsterdam. The candidate will be enrolled at ARU but graduate at the VU and receive a degree from both universities with supervision from both. The student will also have visiting rights at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and there will be additional money to fund travel to Amsterdam and Europe for the purposes of research and engagement with other Odeuropa project members.

Supervisory Team: Dr William Tullett, Lecturer in History (Anglia Ruskin University, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Cambridge) and Professor Inger Leemans, Professor of Cultural History (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Faculty of Arts – Principal Investigator on the Odeuropa project of which this studentship forms a part).

We welcome candidates with backgrounds in all academic disciplines. Given the focus of the project, applicants from those holding undergraduate and master’s degrees in History, Heritage, Museum Studies, or Curation would be particularly valued.

For full details on the studentship, including application procedures please view the vacancy on the ARU website. For questions about the studentship or research project, please contact Dr William Tullett.

The deadline for applications is 4 December 2020.

Odeuropa awarded €2.8M grant for research project on European olfactory heritage and sensory mining

The Odeuropa consortium is very proud to announce that it has been awarded a €2.8M grant from the EU Horizon 2020 programme for the project, “ODEUROPA: Negotiating Olfactory and Sensory Experiences in Cultural Heritage Practice and Research”.

Smell is an urgent topic which is fast gaining attention in different communities. Amongst the questions the Odeuropa project will focus on are: what are the key scents, fragrant spaces, and olfactory practices that have shaped our cultures? How can we extract sensory data from large-scale digital text and image collections? How can we represent smell in all its facets in a database? How should we safeguard our olfactory heritage? And — why should we?

The project bundles an array of academic expertise from across many disciplines—history, art history, computational linguistics, computer vision, semantic web, museology, heritage science, and chemistry, with further expertise from cultural heritage institutes, intangible heritage organisations, policy makers, and the creative and fragrance industries. The team will develop novel methods in sensory mining and olfactory heritage science to collect information about smell from multinational digital text and image collections. The historical scent data will be curated and published in an online Encyclopaedia of Smell Heritage, describing the sensory qualities and meanings of the scents and tracing the storylines of key scents, fragrant places, and olfactory practices. This database will become an archive for the olfactory heritage of Europe, enabling future generations to access and learn about the scented past.

In addition, a selection of European smells will be preserved and ‘reconstructed’ using heritage science techniques. Working with museums, artists, and perfumers the Odeuropa team will curate olfactory events and exhibits and educate heritage visitors on engaging with history through the nose. The ultimate goal of the Odeuropa project is to show that critically engaging our sense of smell and our scent heritage is an important and a viable means for connecting and promoting Europe’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage.



The Odeuropa project will be led by: Inger Leemans (NL-Lab) and Marieke van Erp (DHLab) at the Humanities Cluster of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences; Peter Bell (Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg); Sara Tonelli (Fondazione Bruno Kessler); Raphaël Troncy (EURECOM Sophia Antipolis); William Tullett (Anglia Ruskin University); Dunja Mladenić (Jožef Stefan Institute); and Matija Strlič (University College London).

Odeuropa’s main collaborating partners: International Flavours and Fragrances (IFF); Olfasense, Mediamatic Amsterdam; Museum Ulm; National and University Library of Slovenia (NULS); Dutch Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage (DICH); The Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History; the Slovenian National Commission for UNESCO (SNCU); The International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM); and the NOSE Network.

For more information about Odeuropa, please see the pages describing the project abstract, methodology, timelineteam members, and advisory board. Members of the press can also draw on our press kit (press release, introductory video, and project logo).