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Published November 13, 2023 | Version v1
Project milestone Open

Olfactory Storytelling Toolkit: A 'How-To' Guide for Working with Smells in Museums and Heritage Institutions

  • 1. ROR icon Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 2. ROR icon University College London
  • 3. ROR icon University of York
  • 4. ROR icon Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


Scent in the museum. For a long time, this phrase would have raised red flags for conservators, curators, archivists and visitors of heritage spaces - and in many cases it still does. Scents? Where? Surely not in the galleries or in the depot?! Do they indicate undesirable moulds in books or other objects? Are odours spilling from the restroom or the museum café? Do these scents suggest the presence of airborne dangers that might affect the artefacts? Recognised as a hazard or simply lurking in the background, visitors and heritage professionals alike are not accustomed to actively paying attention to smells in cultural heritage institutions. Scents are assumed to be incidental, unintentional, and unwanted.

Odeuropa's Olfactory Storytelling Toolkit: A 'How-To' Guide for Working with Smells in GLAMs and Heritage Institutions is created for conservators, curators, educators, tour guides, museum directors, archivists, librarians, and all others who are interested to work with smells in a heritage context. This guide is a resource that provides a basis to use smell as a storytelling technique within your own curatorial practice. It provides methods - from beginning to end - to bring an olfactory narrative from the (physical) collection item towards visitor engagement. We not only present tips for building a strong olfactory narrative (and where to start finding those stories) but also outline practical elements of olfactory storytelling such as sniffing out olfactory objects and spaces with smellwalks and a sniffer in residence, best practices for presenting and distributing scents in the museum space, creating (heritage) scents with a scent designer and how to carry out your own risk assessment in GLAM environments.

This handbook also has 11 downloadable resources to help bring your olfactory event to life, which are listed in the "Related works" section below. This project is one of the milestones created within the Odeuropa project. For more information about Odeuropa and the Olfactory Storytelling Toolkit, visit


Odeuropa_Olfactory Storytelling Toolkit_How to Guide.pdf

Files (27.7 MB)

Additional details


European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme No. 101004469
European Union