Timeline Of Scents Lets People Sniff Town's History

AromaPrime was delighted to provide scents for a new exhibition which celebrates Widnes' stinky historyTwo Centuries of Stink: Smell Mapping Widnes Past and Present is now open to visit at Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum.

In the 1800s, the chemical industry’s arrival introduced the town of Widnes to its now famous ‘Widnes Odour’. Jumping forward to 2021, olfactory artist Dr Kate McLean was commissioned to represent Widnes’ stinky history in a new exhibition. For research, historic descriptions of odours were studied, people were invited on 'smell walks' to sniff the town, and locals plotted their nasal memories on a map.

Eight AromaPrime scents were selected to represent Widnes' smelly timeline in the Catalyst exhibition. Airs of greenery, muddy water, vinegar, cooking cabbage, chlorine, smoke, soap and ammonia (outhouse urine) spiral into the air from the holes of white display boxes. They were chosen by Kate McLean after trying a variety of samples.

Kate tells us about how visitors have responded:

'The Two Hundred Years of Stink exhibition was designed deliberately to not include the names of the smells on the odour boxes; however to facilitate understanding, the boxes were colour-coded with labels to correspond with panels to explain the recurring smells of Widnes' smellscape.

'On the opening day, visitors included participants from the smell walks, members of the Catalyst board, former workers at some of the chemical industries and a cross section of a local population. We noted that some people preferred to sniff first and then seek the accompanying interpretation panel, and some of the participants clearly identified certain odours prior to reading; interestingly, chlorine was identified in this way, as well as boiled Cabbage and the river smells.'

Find out how to sniff the exhibition yourself!