A scent journey by Artist Devon Baur


Old Books. 59% of survey takers reported this scent brought on memories immediately. The memories for 63.4% of all survery takers were specific as opposed to general.

The wordcloud presented was generated using the narratives written by the survey takers when prompted to smell old books. The most commonly used words were library, reading, pages, and school.


“This smell reminds me of being 8 years old and walking into my old music studio for the first time. I can vividly remember the studio's layout and it actually reminds me of the violin lesson that would occur right before my appointment. It makes me sad because I miss music.”  2011
“I have a memory of my elementary school library. I remember being in there doing a book report on Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's wife. I was probably in second or third grade.“ 1986
“The smell of old books reminds me of when it's back to school time and you had to go to your school a few days before it starts and you get all your textbooks. I would always look at the first page to see how old the book was and who had it before me. Most of the time the books were extremely old and had that smell. I personally miss this because I love school and that was my favorite time of year.” Elementary-High School
“I’m thinking back to an old bookshelf we used to have in my basement. It’s where all of my books were as a kid. It’s also where my parents kept their old books. I can remember a day when I went through and just looked through their books even though I wasn’t reading them fully, just browsing. I remember going through the encyclopedia and just learning about a bunch of things that started with “A”.” Date Unknown
“I remember going to church every Easter with my great grandma. It was always so boring but then we got to eat delicious food at brunch afterwards. Church always had this particular smell. We also had coloring pages when we were younger to keep us entertained during service.” Easter
“It reminded me of board games, specifically anything with a cardboard character or papers like the spongebob version of “Life” (I’ve just recently arranged that so it’s recent in my Rolodex) or like a puzzle piece box.” Throughout my life
“This reminded me of being at the library, thumbing through books. My sisters and I used to go to the library very often, each picking out around fifteen books at a time (we were big readers). The smell reminded me of carrying ten books at a time, and looking through more books to add to my stack. The memory is pretty vivid, and it reminds me of being very content and happy. I was probably around 12 at the time of this memory.” Memory is 4 years old
“The book I used doesn't really have a smell but brings back vivid memories of my great Grandmother reading to me out of her weathered and torn Bible. She would read a verse and then tell me a story. I remember hanging on her every word.” 1966
“When I was younger, I would spend many of my days at the library with my sisters and mom. I would do every summer reading program and attend all the events at the library. I would spend hours reading at the library and picking out books.” Childhood Years
“I remember sitting in the library with my friend, Anthony. We were hidden behind a large bookshelf and were reading this very old book about different types of bugs. The pages were stained with the grimy fingers of past kids who used the book and we were both grossed out by it and by both, the unkept pages and also the images on the pages, like of beetles and caterpillars. We spent our whole lunch there just scrolling through the pages because as gross as it was, we couldn’t look away.” May of 2009
“The memory that came to mind was reading class in 4th grade where we all sat around the librarian and listened to her read the “One and Only Ivan”. I was 10 years old and I got a calm emotion. The memory is very vivid and I remember every one would intently listen to her words and everyone liked that part of the day.” 2014
“The smell of the book reminded me of my grandma's house when I was little, probably around 10 years old. I remember the comfort and warmth of it. The memory isn’t very vivid but just a collection of times I remember sitting on her couch looking at her books from Scotland. I remember her cat sitting on my lap.” 2014
“When I was in the 1st grade, one of my favorite activities was going to the library every week. Our school's library was small, but so was I. The amount of books felt infinite and being able to check one out every week was such a treat. The small details that I remember are the library check out cards with student's handwritten names, the rough carpet, and the afternoon heat. Since our class would go to the library after lunch, the scent of sweat comes to mind as well. The mere smell of old books brings back memories of these small details, and funny enough, the titles or memories of the books themselves don't surface.” 2001
“There is a room in the English module of my high school that was used by all the teachers as storage -- for old textbooks, broken desks, shelves, and traffic cones. One particular class I took in my sophomore year was student-led, so I would spend a lot of time in this abandoned room across the hall with my friends, "working" on our research papers and presentations. We would go for a couple hours at a time, exploring the blocked closets and rummaging through boxes, all while stressing over work for other classes and coming up with explanations for how some of the items we found came to find a home in this poorly lit room. As the months passed, we each found our own favorite places to sit and talk. Although we never really read the books that created stacks up the walls, the smell of the old textbooks permeated the room and always reminded me of the time spent with my friends.” 8/15-5/19
“In elementary school, I read the book My Side of the Mountain for class and had the assignment to look up a list of vocabulary words found in each chapter in the dictionary, and have a quiz on them later. I used my parents' old heavy unabridged dictionary and looked through it in my dad's office room. I did not understand context clues, and words such as quiver (of arrows) and mess (of fish) were lost on me, and I was embarrassed when I got to class.”  2015


Smemory Theater is a short film that offers an abstraction of the survey results melded with personal experience. The narrative explores the gaps in memory that emerge from anosmia.