Odeuropa x Berlin Center for Cold War Studies (BKKK) Workshop: Malodours as Cultural Heritage?

By: Christina Kotsopoulou & Sofia Ehrich

Sort: Strawberries ‘Elsanta’ / Place of production: San Giovanni Lupatoto, Verona, Italy / Cultivation method: Foil green house / 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.

On December 15th and 16th, 2021, the Odeuropa project in collaboration with the Berlin Center for Cold War Studies (BKKK), hosted its second workshop: Malodours as Cultural Heritage?. The goal of this workshop was to explore and challenge the topic of stench from varying angles and provide methods and techniques using malodours as an important means of storytelling within heritage institutes. The workshop targeted different questions such as: 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? And how can malodours be used as a storytelling technique within heritage institutes? 

The workshop consisted of twenty nine ‘lightning talks’ from thirty one experts with interdisciplinary knowledge about malodours.  The presentations were categorised into five different sessions with the first two sessions taking place the first day of the workshop: 1) Malodours as Cultural Heritage? and 2) Smell Cabinets, which consisted of two parallel sessions that the audience could choose to attend –  Smell Cabinet A : Smells from ‘Hidden’ Infrastructures – Sewers and War and Smell Cabinet B: Smells of Leather and Body Fluids – , 3) Malodours and Environmental Relations: Past and Present, 4) Shaping ‘Otherness’ through Smell and lastly 5) How to Incorporate Malodours in Heritage Institutes?. Each session was followed by an opportunity for the audience to ask questions.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the workshop was held entirely online. Regardless of the online form of this workshop, Odeuropa stayed faithful to its nose-on approach by developing a ‘Do it Yourself’ curriculum for remote smelling which online participants could follow before and while attending the workshop.

Odeuropa intern, Christina Kotsopoulou smelling the remote DIY scent of mould as suggested in the program of the workshop for the talk of Cecilia Bembibre on “Fluffy Growth and the Threat of Decay: An Exploration of the Smell of Mould”. Photo taken by Sanj.

Over 160 participants registered to participate in the workshop. All participants were ready to exchange knowledge about malodours – odours which many heritage institutes and perfume makers tend to avoid due to their intensity and the current lack of knowledge surrounding them. This workshop opened new doors in considering malodours – as well as fragrances – as an integral part of our cultural heritage. Keep reading for a summary of the two-day workshop.

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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?

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MDK21 Recap

On 1 September 2021, Odeuropa and Polifonia co-organised the First International Workshop on Multisensory Data & Knowledge at the Language, Data and Knowledge (LDK) conference. The workshop was hybrid events, with about 20 online participants and 6 on location in Zaragoza, Spain. Six papers were presented from authors from various different time zones on different aspects of the analysis of music, smell, language, and art. As organisers, we were very happy to see the breadth of topics and the creativity with which the authors take on the different research questions.

Together with the other LDK workshops, we are now preparing the proceedings, but you can already find the pre-prints of the papers on the MDK website.  With the organising team, we are thinking about a follow-up workshop. Please get in touch with us if you have thoughts on this!