Leave a comment on the bottom of this post telling us your favorite food smell. and you’ll be entered into a random drawing to win a copy of Eating with Uncle Sam from the Foundation for the National Archives!
Smells are everywhere. Realtors bake cookies and make coffee to help sell houses. Proud owners of new cars draw in deep breaths of “new car smell.” But did you ever smell an exhibit in a museum?
Visitors to “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” might notice something different about this exhibit. Or at least, their noses might notice.
For the first time, the National Archives has added a smell to an exhibit.
Alice Kamps, the curator of “What’s Cooking,” suggested the idea, and soon exhibition designer Ray Ruskin was tackling the challenge of making this odiferous dream a reality. He faced two problems: size and smell.
The Lawrence O’Brien Gallery, where the exhibit is located, is not very large, and he was concerned that the space would not contain the smell. Would visitors to the Rotunda be sniffing the air as they looked at the Constitution? And there was concern that a smell would permanently linger in the air system of the space even after the exhibit closed.
The other issue Ray faced was the smell of the smell. Since the exhibit has four sections—farm, factory, kitchen, and table—it seemed like four scents would be ideal. As the visitor moved into a new part of the exhibit, there would be a new smell that suggested the theme. However, as he received samples of scents from companies, it became clear that some smells were better left unsniffed.
“We struggled to find something,” Ray said. “If something did remind us of a farm, it wasn’t anything we wanted to subject people to.”
In the end, he went with a single smell throughout the exhibit: apple pie.
“It’s a complex thing—there’s cinnamon burning, undertones of butter,” said Ray. “There’s a lot of notes going on.”
Go and smell it for yourself! The exhibit closes on January 3, 2011, and the smell will be only an olfactory memory.