Odeuropa. Negotiating Olfactory and Sensory Experiences in Cultural Heritage Practice and Research
Our senses are gateways to the past. Although museums are slowly discovering the power of multi-sensory presentations, we lack the scientific standards, tools and data to identify, consolidate, and promote the wide-ranging role of scents and smelling in our cultural heritage. In recent years, European cultural heritage institutions have invested heavily in large-scale digitization. A wealth of object, text and image data that can be analysed using computer science techniques now exists. However, the potential olfactory descriptions, experiences, and memories that they contain remain unexplored. We recognize this as both a challenge and an opportunity. Odeuropa will apply state-of-the-art AI techniques to text and image datasets that span four centuries of European history. It will identify the vocabularies, spaces, events, practices, and emotions associated with smells and smelling. The project will curate this multi-modal information, following semantic web standards, and store the enriched data in a ‘European Olfactory Knowledge Graph’ (EOKG). We will use this data to identify ‘storylines’, informed by cultural history and heritage research, and share these with different audiences in different formats: through demonstrators, an online catalogue, toolkits and training documentation describing best-practices in olfactory museology. New, evidence-based methodologies will quantify the impact of multisensory visitor engagement. This data will support the implementation of policy recommendations for recognising, promoting, presenting and digitally preserving olfactory heritage. These activities will realize Odeuropa’s main goal: to show that smells and smelling are important and viable means for consolidating and promoting Europe’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage.