Workshop: Malodours as Cultural Heritage?

Caption: Strawberries by Klaus Pichler- Sort: Strawberries ‘Elsanta’ / Place of production: San Giovanni Lupatoto, Verona, Italy / Cultivation method: Foil greenhouse / Time of harvest: June – October / Transporting distance: 741 km / Means of transportation: Truck Carbon footprint (total) per kg: 0,35 kg / Water requirement (total) per kg: 348 l / Price: 7,96 € / kg; photo courtesy of Klaus Pichler.

Odeuropa and the Berlin Center for Cold War Studies invite you to join us on the 15th & 16th of December for an online workshop on malodours as cultural heritage.

Sensorial perception is as much a cultural phenomenon as a physical and biological function. Fragrances, aromas, and the mouth-watering smells of foods are defining elements of our social  perception, building memories, and situating us into particular cultural contexts.  But, what about the unpleasant or foul odours? Heritage and museum initiatives tend to shy away from malodours,  focusing on pleasant fragrances from the past, warping ideas about olfactory history. In this Odeuropa Workshop: Malodours as Cultural Heritage?, an interdisciplinary group of scholars and museum professionals will explore and challenge the topic of stench, dealing with the specifics of historicising malodours. The border between the malodorous and the pleasant is not only individually, but also collectively, culturally and historically defined. What do malodours tell us about transitions and advancements within urban, social, cultural, and environmental contexts? How can the sense of smell act as a measurement of analysis for histories of the past and present? How can we locate malodours, intangible by definition, within the cultural heritage sector and how can they be used as a storytelling technique?


Date: December 15-16, 2021 (9:45-17:00 CEST)
Streaming from: Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin
Organizers: EU-research network Odeuropa & Berlin Center for Cold War Studies (BKKK) of Leibniz-Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ)
Format: live and pre-recorded lectures
Participants: Open for virtual participation, live-stream link will be publicly available

To register for the event, please fill out this form.

Invited Speakers:

Ally Louks (University of Cambridge)

Ally Louks is currently a PhD student in English Literature: Criticism and Culture at the University of Cambridge. She holds a first class degree in English Literature from the University of Exeter and a Masters degree with distinction in Issues in Modern Culture from UCL. Her PhD research, entitled ‘Olfactory Ethics: Smell and Discrimination in Modernity’, examines the role of olfactory language and perception in the construction of personal and group alterity in interdisciplinary contexts.

Anton Philip van Harreveld (Guest Researcher at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)

The scientific career of Anton Philip van Harreveld has focussed on quantitative description of odour and malodour since 1980. As convenor of a CEN European standardisation working group TC/264/WG2 ‘olfactometry’ he was closely associated with developing international standard methods for odour measurement to support environmental regulations to limit odour nuisance. He remains interested in human behaviour and smell and representing odour in numerical and semantic ways.

Aude Hendrick (Historian (PhD)), museologist and curator at the Sewer Museum,Brussels)

Aude Hendrick is a historian (PhD) and museologist and has been working as a curator of the Sewer Museum in Brussels since 2016.

Bodo Mrozek (Berlin Center for Cold War Studies at the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ))

Bodo Mrozek is a contemporary cultural historian currently working on a transnational olfactory history of the 20th century. He has published on sound history and popular culture and is the editor of “Sensory Warfare in the Global Cold War. Propaganda, Partition and Covert Operations” (coming out in 2022). 

Caro Verbeek (Kunstmuseum, The Hague, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

Dr. Caro Verbeek (1980) is an art historian, curator, maker and teacher with a focus on smell, touch, synaesthesia and recently rhythm. She is an education innovator both within museums, art academies and universities. Her aim is to (re-)construct a more inclusive and democratic history of art by re-narrating it from and through a sensory perspective. For this reason she is often described  as an ‘artistic scholar’ or ‘academic performer’, a label she first resisted but now embraces. Since June 2021 she is also a curator of Mondrian & De Stijl at the Kunstmuseum The Hague, where she is developing more sensory approaches to abstract art. She just finished her fourth book “A small cultural history of the nose” which will appear in English next year.

Cecilia Bembibre (Odeuropa, University College London)

Cecilia Bembibre developed a framework to identify and preserve historic odours using a heritage science approach for her PhD project, Smell of Heritage. Working with The National Trust, St Paul’s Cathedral and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, she has preserved historic scents from a historic library, a 17th-century pot-pourri and the smell of mould in historic churches. Having previously researched smell at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Buenos Aires, Cecilia is interested in an interdisciplinary approach to smell and the preservation of olfactory heritage. She also collaborates with industries exploring the potential of GC-O characterisation of historic odours. Cecilia is a Lecturer in Sustainable Heritage at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage and part of the Horizon 2020 project Odeuropa, working on the preservation, reconstruction and communication of European heritage smells.

Claire Dobbin (Freelance Museum Curator)

Claire Dobbin is a freelance museum curator and interpretation specialist, passionate about inclusive design and the creative use of collections to engage and develop audiences. She has worked and advised on a broad range of museum and heritage projects, in the UK and Middle East, with current exhibitions at The Museum of London Docklands and The Media Majlis in Qatar. She is a Trustee of Wiltshire Museum and a Lecturer in Museums, Galleries and Contemporary Culture at the University of Westminster. Her recent publications and conference contributions focus on the benefits and impact of multisensory visitor experiences.

Clara Muller (Nez, the olfactory magazine)

Art historian, critic, and curator, Clara Muller is pursuing research on the politics of breathing in contemporary art, the diversity of art and design practices using scent as a medium, as well as on the presence of smell in 19th and 20th century French literature.

Emily Cockayne (School of History, University of East Anglia)

Emily Cockayne is a cultural historian, focusing on interpersonal relationships, material culture, nuisances and domestic and street environments in England. I have three published books: Hubbub. Filth, Noise & Stench in England (2007), Cheek by Jowl. A History of Neighbours (2012), and Rummage: a History of the Things we have Reused, Recycled and Refused to let go (2020). I consider smells in various contexts in these publications. I am an Associate Professor in Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Inger Leemans (Odeuropa, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

Inger Leemans is a professor of Cultural History at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the principal investigator of the NL-Lab at the KNAW Humanities Cluster. Her research activity is concentrated on early modern cultural history (1500-1850), the history of emotion and smell, the history of knowledge, cultural economy, and digital humanities. She is the project lead of Odeuropa.

Jean-Thomas Tremblay (English Department, New Mexico State University)

Jean-Thomas Tremblay is an assistant professor of English at New Mexico State University. They are the authors of the forthcoming Breathing Aesthetics (Duke University Press, 2022) and, with Andrew Strombeck, a co editor of Avant-Gardes in Crisis: Art and Politics in the Long 1970s (State University of New York Press, 2021). Their writing is tallied at

Josely Carvalho (Independent Artist)

Josely Carvalho is a multimedia artist, born in São Paulo and maintains studios in Rio de Janeiro and New York. In the last four decades, her artwork embraces several mediums and seeks to highlight memory, identity, women issues and social justice while consistently challenges frontiers between artist and public and art and politics.In 2019, she received the International Art and Olfaction Sadakichi Award in experimental olfactory artwork category for her installation Glass Ceiling: Resilience presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art in São Paulo in 2018. Among her latest exhibits highlights are: Suspensio: An interruption in Time, at Art Olfactory Keller Gallery, New York, 2021; Diary of Smells: Anoxia, Harvestworks, Governors Island, New York 2019; Diary of Smells: Affectio  at Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2019; Diary of Smells: Glass Ceiling at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea, São Paulo, Brazil, 2018.

Lara Salmon and Regina Mamou; Joes Segal (Independent artists, The Wende Museum of the Cold War, Los Angeles, California) 

Research for the Bermuda Triangle (RBT) is the duo-collaborative of artists Lara Salmon and Regina Mamou. Together they create experience-based art events both nationally and abroad. RBT undertook their first scent-related project in 2018 when they began working with hydro-distillation in Marrakech, Morocco.

Liam Findlay (AromaPrime)

Liam is a consultant and designer for AromaPrime, a company which provides themed scents for educational and immersive venues. Past projects have involved everything from the design of a museum’s Egyptian mummy smell-pump to the creation of nostalgic, olfactory kits for people with dementia. AromaPrime’s customers include notable venues such as The British Museum and National Trust sites, as well as entertainment brands like The Dungeons and Madame Tussauds.

Lizzie Marx (Odeuropa, University of Cambridge)

Lizzie Marx is a member of Odeuropa, where she collaborates on mining olfactory imagery in digital collections, and its impact in museum and heritage organisations. She is also a PhD candidate in the History of Art at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, where she is completing her dissertation, ‘Visualising Smell in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art’. In 2018–2019 she was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and she was the Research and Exhibition Assistant of ‘Fleeting – Scents in Colour’, the 2021 summer exhibition at the Mauritshuis, The Hague, about smell in seventeenth-century art, and co-author of the exhibition publication. 

Mathias Zinnen (Odeuropa, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg, Department of Computer Science)

Mathias Zinnen studied Philosophy and Computer Science in Mainz, Berlin, and Erlangen. Currently, he is pursuing his Ph.D. in computer science at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. While studying philosophy, he was (and still is) particularly interested in the philosophy of science and epistemology. In the field of computer science, he is enthusiastic about machine learning, artificial intelligence, and their applications. For the Odeuropa project, he works on the automatic recognition of olfactory references in historical artworks.

Michael Philipp (Museum Barberini, Potsdam)

Michael Philipp is the chief curator at the Museum Barberini in Potsdam.

Nadjib Achaibou (Symrise Mexico)

Nadjib Achaibou is a Symrise Perfumer creating consumer products in Latin America. He is passionate about using fragrance as a storytelling tool in concerts, theatre and multisensory virtual reality.

Raphael Troncy (Odeuropa, EURECOM)

Raphael Troncy is an associate professor in computer science in the Data Science Department of EURECOM. His research interests include knowledge engineering, ontology modeling, knowledge graph, natural language processing and understanding and recommender systems. He is applying his research in the Cultural Heritage sector as well as with the culture, tourism, creative and media industries.

Rebeca Ibáñez Martín (Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences)

Rebeca Ibáñez Martín is an anthropologist and Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholar. She  focuses on the topics of food and agricultural multispecies relations, and waste and wastewater infrastructural innovations. 

Ruben Verwaal (Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University)

Ruben Verwaal is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University, and curator of the medical collections at Erasmus MC, Rotterdam. His research focuses on early modern medicine, deafness, and bodily fluids. He recently published ‘Bodily Fluids, Chemistry and Medicine in the 18th-century Boerhaave School’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), and ‘Fluid Deafness: Earwax and Hardness of Hearing in Early Modern Medicine’, Medical History 65 (2021), 366–383. 

Shivani Kapoor (O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India)

Shivani Kapoor is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Writing Studies, O.P. Jindal Global University. She has a doctorate in Political Science from Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her work is located at the intersection of caste, sensory politics and labour and examines the relationship between caste and the senses in the leather industry in contemporary India. 

Sofia Ehrich (Odeuropa, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)

Sofia Collette Ehrich is a sensory art historian and curator of scent experiences. As a Los Angeles native, she studied art history at University California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She recently finished her Masters at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in Comparative Arts and Media studies where she wrote her thesis, Orchestrating the Senses onto Virtual Reality Narratives: Confronting the limitations of media and exploring the importance of crossmodality within virtual digital environments. Her research interests include approaches, challenges, and limitations to multisensory storytelling within varying environments but especially in cultural heritage institutions. She is also interested in detecting the visual representations of the senses (especially smell) in art history and connecting these with sensory impressions in the museum. Within the Odeuropa project, she will assist in organizing and curating events and exhibitions around smell.

Stephanie Weismann (University of Vienna)

With a background in cultural studies, comparative literature and Slavic studies, Stephanie Weismann is currently working on an olfactory urban history of the Polish city of Lublin in the 20th century. The study is sniffing out different odours and malodours that defined the city’s atmosphere and asks how political, social, cultural and economic processes and tensions in Eastern Central Europe have found expression in olfactory experiences.

Tasha Marks (Independent Artist)

Tasha Marks is an award-winning artist, food historian and founder of AVM Curiosities, a creative practice that addresses how the senses can be incorporated into the gallery and museum space. Since founding her practice in 2011, she has  worked with a number of high profile cultural institutions in the UK, including; The British Museum, The National Gallery and the V&A. Projects range from olfactory curation and scented installations to interactive lectures and limited-edition confectionery.

Tina Asmussen (German Mining Museum Bochum, Ruhr University of Bochum)

Tina Asmussen is an assistant professor of early modern mining history at the Ruhr University of Bochum and head of the mining history research department at the German Mining Museum Bochum. Previously she held an Ambizione fellowship by the Swiss National Science Foundation at the Chair for Science Studies at ETH Zurich and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Her main research interests are early modern history of science and knowledge, environmental and economic history, especially the history of natural resources. Currently she is working on a book project entitled: “Subterranean OEconomies: Mining and Resource Cultures in Early Modern Europe.”

Victoria-Anne Michel (Odeuropa, Anglia Ruskin University)

Victoria-Anne Michel is a PhD student in the European H2020 project, Odeuropa. She is interested in understanding how people experience smells in a space and how these smellscapes participate in making sense of place. She has a background in Social and Human sciences and specialized in Urbanism for her Master degree at the Institute of Political Studies in Bordeaux, France. She also completed a professional training in Perfumery and holds a certificate of “Olfactory Designer” from Cinquième Sens Institute in Paris.

William Tullett (Odeuropa, Anglia Ruskin University)

William Tullett is  an Associate Professor in Sensory History and a researcher on the Odeuropa project. His work has focussed on the sensory history of the west from the 1600s to the present. His first book, Smell in Eighteenth-Century England: A Social Sense, was published with Oxford University Press in 2019.



Smellinar 1 – David Howes

On May 26, the Odeuropa project opened its new “Smellinar” series with a lecture by David Howes. With the Smellinars series, Odeuropa aims to provide a podium for the exciting, innovative, and multi-disciplinary work that is going on in the world of olfactory heritage and sensory mining. Smell historian William Tullett is the host of the Smellinar series.

Anthropologist David Howes is one of the pioneers in the field of sensory studies, and the co-founder of the Centre for Sensory Studies at Concordia University. With this centre, Howes and sensory historian Constance Classen have created an open, yet robust space for exploratory and fundamental research into the cultural history of the senses.

As professor Howes is now working on a Sensory Studies Manifesto (forthcoming from the University of Toronto Press), the Odeuropa project was eager to hear his thoughts about the agenda for the field. In his lecture, Howes expressed his excitement about the turning point he envisions the field is now experiencing. According to Howes, the Odeuropa project is a sign of a “revolutionary new opening” in the field. “This shows we are on the cusp of a new era in smell studies”, Howes stated. He drew a parallel with Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell (1994), the groundbreaking work exploring the history, anthropology and sociology of olfaction. This book, which he co-authored with Classen and the sociologist Anthony Synnott, appeared at a moment in time where the tide was turning for the interest in olfaction. Just as the announcement of the launch of the Odeuropa project has attracted widespread interest across the humanities (including digital humanities) and social sciences, and from the global press, in the 1990’s, Classen and Howes were overwhelmed by the attention and response their work triggered. Their book was awarded, reviewed, discussed, critiqued and translated, while they themselves were welcomed all over the world to research smell cultures, and even became the object of research themselves, for (as Howes narrated) people in Brazil and Papua New Guinea ‘sniffed them out’. Thus, the smell researchers also became subjects of olfactory analysis.

Their first forays in the world of sensory research already convinced Howes and Classen that in order to learn about the senses, one has to embrace embodied learning techniques. “Follow your nose”, was Howes’ advice to the audience. Although this might seem self-evident, in academic research this is still one of the main challenges. Howes discussed the seminal article by sensory historian Mark Jenner in the American Historical ReviewFollow Your Nose? Smell, Smelling, and Their Histories’ as an example of how the sensory turn might have put the cultural history of smell on the agenda, but scholars also remained ‘nose averse’ – critical about the nose as an instrument of knowledge and about olfactory recreations of historical scents. Howes says he would delete the question mark from Jenner’s title.

Connected to this debate is the question about whether the Western world really experienced an ‘olfactory decline’ in the 19th-and 20th century. According to Howes, contemporary critical attitudes towards ‘kwowing by sensing’ are a result of a discrediting of the lower senses. This has its origin in a variety of developments, such as the transition from humoral and miasma theory to the germ theory of disease, and the impact of philosophers like Kant (who disqualified the fleeting, transitory sense of smell and banned it from his aesthetics), Freud (who had a “nasal complex,” according to Howes, and discredited olfaction as animalistic), and Proust (who tied smell firmly to memory and the emotions, and therefore pushed smell in the domain of the irrational). Although Howes underlined the rhetorical power of the Proustian statement that smells are “gateways into the past”, he warned against a simple connection between smell and emotion, reducing the sense of smell as an irrational instrument of hedonic appraisal.

Howes presented numerous examples of the wide array of uses that smell had in previous eras. Smell was regarded as a spiritual power (e.g. in Christianity, due to its association with the breath or spiritus, it was believed that Christ would ‘smell’ out those souls who should go to heaven and those that should go to hell on Judgement Day). In Sandalwood and carrion : smell in premodern Indian religion and culture, James McHugh describes how smell can also function as a spatial sense, a mode of orientation.

Howes concluded his lecture with some advice for olfactory explorers:

  • Liberate the nose!
  • Recant Kant. Avoid Freud. Use Proust, but keep in mind that sense of smell is also a faculty of cognition.
  • Be aware of ‘tunnel olfaction’ – take a relational, cultural approach to the study of the sensorium.
  • Follow your nose, but be prepared to be hard-nosed, for olfactory research will open new doors, but you will also have to deal with many conservative gatekeepers. So: keep your eyes open for alternative pathways for (financial) support for your research.
  • Keep your nostrils open – cultivate your olfactory capacities – sense between the lines.

The discussion that followed amongst the Smellinar participants was lively. Jonathan Reinharz, another pioneer in sensory studies and author of Past Scents: Historical Perspectives on Smell, underlined that the revision of smell as an instrument of cognition also closely connects to the way emotion studies have reconceptualized emotions from animalist, irrational impulses, to modes of appraisal and cognition. Asifa Majid, expert in olfactory language and cognition, discussed with Howes the ambiguous role of neuroscience and psychology, which have furthered knowledge about smell (Majid favorably mentioned a recent article by Rekow et al. which describes how the sense of smell plays a key role in initiating complex visual categorizations in the infant brain), but also may have hindered more anthropological and cultural historical approaches by prioritizing the laboratory as the primary context for investigation. Odeuropa project lead Inger Leemans and Howes discussed how experimental and multi-disciplinary research teams, like the Sensory Studies Center in Canada, can create a safe environment for scientific exploration and innovation. The center works with the concept of ‘research creation’ (so as to valorize non-academic or artistic research development) and is now preparing a page on its website dedicated to the junior sensory explorers – that is, the Next Generation Sensory Studies Scholars and Artists. Michelle Krell Kydd (educates on smell through “Smell & Tell” workshops, at the University of Michigan) discussed whether Covid is not only resulting in more interest about olfaction, but also in more anxieties and new prejudices against smell.

Paola Totaro announced that she is publishing a new book on how the Covid pandemic is changing attitudes to smell. The work of sensory ethnographers such as Anna Harris was mentioned, which analyses physical examination by doctors (a sensing of the body, through the body) and other ways of embodied learning like knitting. The discussion concluded with stating the importance of sensory literacy, the ability to orchestrate and employ the senses in our digital age.


Further reading:

David Howes, “Epilogue: Futures of Smells Past” in Mark M. Smith (ed.) Smell and History: A Reader. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2019

The second Odeuropa Smellinar will be hosted on June 23, with olfactory linguist/ linguistic psychology Asifa Mahjid, olfactory historian Holy Dugan & Heritage Science expert Matija Strlič.