Scent and the City

The “Scent and the City" exhibition invites visitors to use their noses to discover the worlds of the civilizations that once lived in Anatolia. More than 50 scents will be exhibited until June 8 at the ANAMED Gallery, including historically significant scents such as saffron, frankincense, and agarwood, and modern-day scents such as cologne, linden trees, and burning coal.

The exhibition is curated by Lauren Nicole Davis, a PhD candidate and teaching assistant at the Department of Archaeology and History of Art at Koç University and designed by Cem Kozar and Işıl Ünal from PATTU Architecture. The scents of the exhibition were prepared by MG Gülçiçek International Fragrance Company. The exhibition draws from literature, rituals, traditions, and the economy to focus on scents that were prominent in Anatolia from the Hittites to today as well as those of significance in Istanbul since the Byzantine era.

The first section examines the science and physiology behind our sense of smell. Text and videos answer questions such as “what is the connection between smell and memory?” “how do we detect smells?” and “why are some smells ‘good’ and some smells ‘bad’?”.

The second section focuses on the smells of the Hittite, Ancient Greek and Roman Civilizations as well as the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Local and exotic scents used throughout history can be experienced with special mechanisms specifically developed for the exhibition. In collaboration with Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi, Atelier Rebul and Gülsha, the exhibition will then explain how the traditional scents from the Ottoman era to the present were, and continue to be, produced and preserved. Additionally, a selection of coffee tools and cups, perfume and cologne bottles, and other objects from private collections will be on display. At the end, visitors will reach the 20th and 21st centuries and experience how Turkey’s ‘smellscapes’ continue to change.

Throughout the exhibition, visitors will be able to interact with scents in different ways. At a scent bar, visitors will try to guess 12 different smells and then use tester strips to create various scent combinations. In the entrance, there will be large map of Istanbul onto which visitors can add scents and help to create an Istanbul smell map.

As the world changes, so do the scents within it. Scent and the City invites the visitors to awaken their sense—and their memories—of smell, and to discover the past and present smellscapes of Istanbul and Anatolia.

Faculty Advisor: Lucienne Thys-Şenocak, Koç University Department of Archaeology and Art History

Content Consultants: Vedat Ozan, Aybala Yentürk and Nejat Yentürk