Published: 17 November 2020 at 10:30
Anglia Ruskin part of €2.8m programme to recreate and preserve past aromas
An ambitious €2.8 million research project has been launched to bring historic aromas back to life and create a unique archive of European smells from the 16th to early 20th century.
The ODEUROPA project, funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme, is bringing together historians, artificial intelligence (AI) experts, chemists and perfumers, and the key smells of Europe will be shared in a series of museum events across Europe, beginning next year.
The research team involves academics from six European countries including smell historian Dr William Tullett, from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), who specialises in how people in the 17th and 18th centuries smelled their environments and manipulated the scents around them.
Dr Tullett said:
Dr Tullett, the author of Smell in Eighteenth-Century England (Oxford University Press), believes that everyone should care about smell and its history. He added:
ODEUROPA will find references to smells such as disease-fighting perfumes, tobacco or the stench of industrialisation in historic literature and paintings using state-of-the-art AI techniques, and then attempt to recreate them with the help of chemists and perfumers.
Inger Leemans, project lead of ODEUROPA and Professor of Cultural History at VU University and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences Humanities Cluster (KNAW-HuC),said:
The project is the first European initiative to use AI to investigate the importance of scents and smelling, and to discover how scents have moulded our communities and traditions.
Peter Bell, Professor of Digital Humanities at FAU in Erlangen, Germany, and part of the team using machine learning and computer vision to train computers in analysing scented objects and olfactory information in historic images, said:
An archive of the smells and their meaning will be stored online, accessible to all. The historic scents will be shared with museum visitors in a series of public events over the next three years and the project also has a scent logo, created by perfumer Frank Bloem, which will be available at museums and events.
ODEUROPA involves academics from KNAW Humanities Cluster (The Netherlands), FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany), Fondazione Bruno Kessler (Italy), EURECOM - Sophia Antipolis (France), Jožef Stefan Institute (Slovenia), University College London (United Kingdom), and Anglia Ruskin University (United Kingdom).
Picture: ©Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (CC0 1.0)