Friday, September 21, 2012

Smell Maps: Smells' Role in Geography

'We have 100 per cent smell recall after one year but only 30 per cent sight memory after three months' - Kate McLean

Geography and smell are usually not studied together.  I find this oversight (which I myself am guilty of) strange because smell is such a strong emotion when it comes to memory and identity of place.  I remember being young and smelling Sioux City, Iowa for the first time.  My mother informed me that the smell was because of the agricultural industry in the city; which was located there because of the Missouri River and the economic geography of unions and pig farming.  The smell of Sioux City was part of its geography.

Artist Kate McLean takes the tie between smell and geography seriously.  The Daily Mail featured her smell maps of world cities.  While only portions of her work are available online, she does a good job of explaining the artistic merits of her work.

Smell is such a strong sense that imprints strong memories.  To fully a understand a place we need to study its smell.

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