Restore the old smell, preserve the special smell that will "extinct"

Researchers are developing various techniques to restore flavors lost in the past and preserve present flavors for the future, such as the smell of the market, the smell of the library, etc.

In life there are very special smells such as the smell in the pub, the library, the second hand book store, the smell of the market… as part of our culture. However, these special and familiar smells are in danger of “going away and never coming back” because of the rapid change of life.

Remember the smell of a leather-bound book that had just been taken down from a deep bookshelf… The yellowed pages were covered in dust. Before opening the book to read, we have filled our lungs with the smell of the book.

Restore the old smell, preserve the special smell that will "extinct"
The smell of the familiar, like that of old books, is part of our “intangible heritage” that has not yet been protected – (Image: Getty Images/BBC).

Why does the smell of an old book or a town matter? According to the BBC, these particular smells have cultural value . When old books are damaged, discarded, or strictly preserved in specialized rooms, it becomes harder for us to experience these tastes.

Alex Rhys-Taylor of Goldsmiths University, who specializes in urban spatial experiences, says his research proves that we can understand a lot about a place’s cultural economy by its smell.

For example, taking a deep breath in central London, we can smell curries, pubs and traffic. These smells give us a clear sense of a place. Moreover, it also shows the history of immigration of the residents here.

However, the specific odors that characterize a place that everyone can smell are not permanent. They change with our movement, globalization, national exchange. Today, there are the same smells in all cities such as the smell of roasted coffee, the smell of casseroles… while the typical smells of a place disappear, or are overwhelmed by new smells.

Cecilia Bembibre, a researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Heritage Research, University of London, is developing various techniques to restore flavors lost in the past and preserve present flavors for the future. . Bembibre’s work is aimed at preserving smell – an area of little research but a legacy of our sense of smell and scent.

The scientists exposed the polymer fibers to an odorous environment so that the odor-causing chemical compounds in the air adhered to the polymer fibers. They then analyzed the polymer fiber sample in the lab, dissolved the compounds that adhered to the fiber, separated them, and identified each to get a formula for a scent.

Another method is gas chromatography analysis – very popular in the perfumery, food and beverage industries. It allows the identification of compounds with volatile odors.

The third way is to use the nose . A group of people will work together to describe a certain smell/smells, or scent experts/scenters will be involved in describing the scents.

Kate McLean, another researcher, tries to map flavors that are geographically distributed and also include time-varying smells like morning and afternoon smells in the same area, for example smells of a street in Shanghai or the summer smell of Le Marais, Paris.

The sensorymaps website she founded also looks at smells from the past like that of Widnes, an old town that produced soap in the 19th-20th centuries. Today, the present scent of this place is very different from the old one. McLean’s research allows us to experience the smells of the past and the present.