Thursday, November 14, 2019

Smell & Tell: Helen Keller’s Smelling Session with Perfumer Michel Pasquier



















Helen Keller participated in a smelling session with a perfumer in the fall of 1950. The event was described in an article titled “The World Through Three Senses” that Keller wrote for the March 1951 edition of Ladies’ Home Journal. The name of the perfumer was conspicuously absent, which was odd considering the postwar boom in women’s perfumes and the fact that Keller was an avid gardener who adored flowers.

It turns out that Helen Keller didn’t leave the perfumer’s name out of the article— the editor did. Michelle Krell Kydd discovered this after the American Foundation for the Blind launched the first fully accessible digital archive of The Helen Keller Collection in June 2019. The draft of “The World Through Three Senses” wasn’t hidden behind a paywall; it was hidden in plain sight. The perfumer’s name was Michel Pasquier.

Msr. Pasquier was an independent perfumer who compounded fragrances in his lab at 7 West 46th Street in New York City. Keller joined a small group of women in Westport, Connecticut who met with the perfumer and evaluated eight unidentified perfumes, each inspired by a single flower. The women used Pasquier’s “whiff sachets” during the exercise, and tried to guess the name of flower that inspired each perfume.

We’ll recreate the smelling session experienced by Helen Keller using single floral notes supplied by International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF). We’ll also smell Pasquier’s Tobruk perfume (1952) and see a vintage Pasquier gift set that includes the whiff sachets that Helen Keller referenced in “The World Through Three Senses”. Join us for several historic “firsts” at this Smell & Tell.

The Smell and Tell series of art+science programming is led by Michelle Krell Kydd, a trained nose in flavors and fragrance who shares her passion for gastronomy and the perfume arts on Glass Petal Smoke. Smell & Tell builds community through interactions with flavor, fragrance and storytelling. The unique and popular series celebrates its seventh anniversary year at the Ann Arbor District Library and is ongoing.

Smell & Tell: Helen Keller's Smelling Session with Perfumer Michel Pasquier
Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Time: 6:30-8:45PM
Location: The Ann Arbor District Library, Pittsfield Branch
Address: 2359 Oak Valley Drive, Ann Arbor, M 48103
Phone: 734-327-4200
Admission is free and is sponsored by AADL
Link to Event: https://aadl.org/node/397484

Note:
Helen Keller communicated the value of the sense of smell throughout her lifetime. This is thoughtfully developed in an essay titled “Smell, The Fallen Angel”, which appears in the sixth chapter of her book, The World I Live In (1904). Keller felt that smell was a noble sense “neglected and disparaged” in occularcentric culture. It still is.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Smell & Tell: The Smell of Mummies


The Smell of Mummies takes place at the Ann Arbor District Library
on Thursday, November 14, 2019, from 6:30-8:45PM. 












Several ingredients used in the ancient Egyptian ritual of mummification can also be found 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 aromatic materials used in perfumery were also used to send mummies into the afterlife what on earth do mummies smell like?

Are you imagining the smells 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 of Archeology at the University of Michigan to smell mummies. Sounds strange, alluring and slightly macabre, but when the “Nose of Ann Arbor” needs 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 from jumbled children’s bones), and a human mummy. At the end of her quest she was overheard telling a Kelsey Museum staff member, “Damn the mummy powder drinkers and the Victorians with their lust for the aromatic dead.”

When the Ann Arbor District Library 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 N°5 either.” We’ll smell beautiful natural extracts used in mummification that are also used in modern luxury perfumes at this Smell & Tell program. Simulacra of Mummy a perfume inspired by the smell of mummies at the Kelsey Museum, will also be experienced.

The scent flight for The Smell of Mummies includes: N° 1: Lotus of Nefertem, N° 2: Hatshepsut at Punt, N° 3: Mut’s Kyphi, N° 4: Egyptian Jasmine, N° 5: The Embalmer’s Jar, N° 6: Simulacra of Mummy, N° 7: Victorian Sham, and N° 8: Allamistakeo’s Cigar. If you don't know who Allamistakeo is and consider yourself an Edgar Allan Poe fan, visit the Poe Museum website and learn about Some Words with a Mummy. Warning: What you learn may alter romantic notions of Victorian culture, should you harbor them.

The Smell and Tell series of art+science programming is led by Michelle Krell Kydd, a trained nose in flavors and fragrance who shares her passion for gastronomy and the perfume arts on Glass Petal Smoke. Smell & Tell builds community through interactions with flavor, fragrance and storytelling. The Smell and Tell series celebrates it's seventh anniversary year at the Ann Arbor District Library and is ongoing.

Notes:
Smell & Tell events are listed on the right hand page of Glass Petal Smoke and removed after an event takes place. Complete information for specific public programs, like The Smell of Mummies, will be posted in the blog for reference over time.

The body of work for Smell & Tell programming, which began in 2012, reaches the 100th program mark at the University of Michigan with the introduction of Sacred Scents, an exploration of religiously significant scents from Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the three Abrahamic traditions. The event, which is designed for University of Michigan Students, debuts on November 7, 2019.

Smell & Tell: The Smell of Mummies
Date: Thursday, November 14, 2019
Time: 6:30-8:45PM (early arrival recommended)
Location: Ann Arbor District Library (Downtown Branch)
Address: 343 South Fifth Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
Phone: 734-327-4200
Admission: Free as Smell & Tell is sponsored by AADL
Link to Event: https://aadl.org/node/397485