Smell and the City

Urban smell enthusiasts

Smell and Memory: An invitation to deposit your smell stories into archive


Smell, we know, has a special link with memory.

Marcel Proust’s account of his memories of eating Madeleines dipped in tea as a child is perhaps the most famous and widely repeated example of this phenomena and in fact whilst undertaking my PhD on smell his text must have been recommended to me at least a hundred times, only outranked in frequency by the question engraved in the ears and hearts of all smell researchers… ‘Have you read that book by Patrick Süskind?’!

Yet smell does have a remarkable persistence in our memories. Smell psychologist Trygg Engen’s research highlighted that although people are more likely to recall exposure to a visual image than an odour when re-exposed after a short period of time, once in our memories, odours are effectively in there to stay, and are more likely than visual images to be recalled after a year. Indeed it is this factor, which is contributing towards an interest in the role that smell has to play with illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s in aiding access to long-stored memories, although this shouldn’t be confused with research also examining the reduced smell performance which occurs in sufferers of these two illnesses.


This week I found out about a new project ‘Smellstories’ led by researcher and designer Natalie B. Last year I was honoured to act as examiner for Natalie’s fascinating study into the relationships between smell environments and memory, implemented through the use of smellwalks in Montreal, Canada.

Smellstories is a project developed with the aim of creating an archive of people’s olfactory memories and Natalie would love to hear about your smell memories. In order to deposit your smellstory into the archive, please click here to download the PDF form. You need to save the form on to your own files, complete and return via email to

For further details, visit the project website or follow on twitter @smellstories

note aux francophones : vous pouvez nous faire parvenir votre histoire en français. Le formulaire est bilingue (EN/FR). ATTENTION : sauvegardez le PDF sur votre bureau AVANT de le remplir.


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This entry was posted on March 2, 2014 by in Smell and the City Project.
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