Once dismissed as “the forgotten sense” in the book Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell, the power of scent is now embraced as a potent tool to stir human emotions, evoke memories, and bring about a multi-dimensional experience. This is particularly poignant when it comes to the museum environment, where artifacts and treasures provide man with the ability to traverse time and link to our fore-bearers of yesteryear.
While sight and sound are perhaps the most dominant of human senses when enjoying an exhibition, the addition of carefully formulated aromas adds a whole new dimension to the encounter.
Atmospheric Scenting Enhances the Visitor Experience
The use of aroma can upscale visitor perception from that of simply viewing artifacts to the feeling of actually being transported to the place on show, because fragrance goes straight to the area of the brain that controls emotions and memory. Combined with sound, touch, and even taste, museum curators can lead their visitors on a multi-faceted sensory journey through time.
Museum scenting is being utilized in locations small and large. Notable examples include the use of strategic floral scenting by the National Archeological Museum of Athens in its 150th anniversary exhibition, Countless Aspects of Beauty, and the New York Museum of Art and Design who built a whole exhibition around the concept in their 2012 spectacle, The Art of the Scent.
Imagine wandering a 1950s exhibition and breathing in the comforting bouquet of freshly baked bread, as was the case at the Ohio Historical Society’s recreation of commonplace activities of the decade. Or perhaps breathing the scent of violets as you gaze upon Belle Epoque artworks? The right choice of fragrance truly alters perception, bringing further connection and a sense of immediacy to the objets d’art on display.
Ambient Scenting Solutions for All
Of course, the location of an exhibition has a direct bearing on how easy it is to infuse the air with the required scent. The size and scale of the display space, along with the fact that many museums are housed in buildings that are themselves a part of history and therefore might have their own odors, makes for a skilled approach to effectively bring about the optimum bouquet.
Harnessing the latest technology has overcome many of these challenges, and scent experts, Aroma360, bring the concept of HVAC scent machines to environments of all sizes. Such a solution allows for uniform scenting of an area and the easy ability to do so around a particular display, room, or that of a complete building. Exhibition curators work with the scent company to establish the exact fragrances necessary to amplify visitor experience in a way that lighting and sound alone can’t match.
Partnering with professional scent creators—known as aromachologists—allows exhibition designers to further enhance their works of art, increasing desirability and subtly yet effectively taking their display to a previously unattainable level. Connection is key, and the art of museum scenting is the next step to a truly immersive visitor experience.