Research news

Photo: Matija Strlič

Publish Date: 15.10.2021

Category: Interdisciplinary research, Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 4 Quality education (Indicators)

Slovenian and Polish researchers are working on a high-impact international research project called the Odotheka, as part of which they plan to develop an international archive of heritage odours. Including museum visitors in multisensory museum experiences is becoming increasingly important, because odours present a different aspect of the exhibited items and their history than visual information. Darko Knez, a curator at the National Museum of Slovenia, explains: "The objects displayed at a museum are often associated with smells that reflect their former use or perhaps conservation work done on them, but they can also simply reflect their decay. This project will make it possible to study certain extraordinary collections, such as items that once belonged to Slovenia's greatest poet, France Prešeren, in a new way, and present their story from a completely new angle."

As part of this project, which will kick off on 1 December and last three years, a team of researchers at the University of Ljubljana's Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology lead by Matija Strlič and a research team at the Krakow University of Economics will analyse the smells of ten historical objects from Slovenian and Polish collections, and evaluate their historical significance. They will conduct various chemical lab analyses of the objects' volatile compounds that make up their odours. In addition, they will perform historical analyses of the objects, which will open up space for new interpretations. Researchers will seek to scientifically reproduce the identified smells, documenting the entire procedure. This will be of great help in developing the archive of heritage odours: the Odotheka.

According to researchers, smell plays a vital role in cultural heritage because it gives us a sense of belonging and identity. Especially interesting for the Slovenian researchers will be the collection of items that once belonged to Slovenia's greatest poet, France Prešeren, now held by the National Museum of Slovenia. His snuff box will thus be one of the first objects on their list and their Polish colleagues will start by analysing the smell of Da Vinci's painting Lady with an Ermine held by the National Museum in Krakow.

The project is co-funded by the Polish National Science Centre (NCN) and the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS) as part of the WEAVE programme. Working together on the project with the research teams at the University of Ljubljana's Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, and the Krakow University of Economics, will be the curators and conservators at the National Museum of Slovenia in Ljubljana and the Krakow National Museum.

Vonj knjige

Two of the planned Odotheka case studies. Figure 1: Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine from the Princes Czartoryski Museum, Krakow National Museum, and the snuff box of the Slovenian poet France Prešeren from the collection of the National Museum of Slovenia (photo: Tomaž Lauko, reproduced with permission). The smells will be analysed, catalogued, reproduced and presented as part of multisensory museum experiences.

Media news about the project:

Kaj nam lahko pove vonj Prešernove tobačnice? - Val 202 ( (in Slovene),34351 (in Polish),30bc1058 (in Polish)  


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