Smell & Tell | The Smell of Mummies
Thursday November 14, 2019: 6:30pm to 8:45pm
Downtown Library: 4th Floor Meeting Room
Several aromatics used in the Egyptian ritual of mummification are used in today’s luxury perfumes. Sound gruesome? Take heart. This isn’t fodder for conspiracy theories, but it’s definitely inspiration for the inevitable question. If materials used in perfumery were also used to send mummies into the afterlife what on earth do mummies smell like?
Are you visualizing the smell of a dead body in the process of mummification when considering this question? Stop those thoughts immediately and put on your Sherlock Holmes hat! We’re in it for the science at Smell & Tell so Michelle Krell Kydd went to the Kelsey Museum at the University of Michigan to smell mummies. Sounds strange, alluring and slightly macabre, but she’s the “Nose of Ann Arbor” and when she wants answers she literally sniffs them out.
Kydd took her fearless nose to the basement of the Kelsey Museum and was escorted to a temperature-controlled room where she encountered a mummified a falcon, a mummified dog that was really a fake mummy made of children’s bones, and a human mummy. At the end of her quest she was overheard telling a Kelsey Museum staff member, “Damn those mummy powder drinking Victorians and their lust for the aromatic dead.”
When AADL asked Kydd about the smell of mummies she had this to say, “Mummies don’t smell like decomposition, but they don’t smell like Chanel No. 5 either.” We’ll smell beautiful natural extracts used in mummification that are also used in luxury perfumes. “Simulacra of Mummy”, a perfume inspired by the smell of mummies at the Kelsey Museum, will also be experienced at this Smell & Tell program.
The Smell & Tell series explores the art + science connection in flavors and fragrance. It is led by Michelle Krell Kydd who is a trained “nose” in perfumery and editor of the award-winning blog Glass Petal Smoke. The Smell & Tell series celebrates its seventh anniversary year at the Ann Arbor District Library and is ongoing.