The 180

Podcast extra: Does Canada need a national smell archive?

The 180's Matthew Lazin-Ryder had an idea while half asleep one early morning, so he and host Jim Brown turned on a microphone to discuss.

So, Canada's got this institution called Library and Archives Canada.

It preserves a lot of things. 

Things to see, like filmstrips, microfiche, books, paintings, sketches, stamps, journals, maps, and magazines.

It also preserves things to hear, like music, poetry readings, radio broadcasts, oral history recordings, and public speeches.

But what about smell

Science tells us the sense of smell is intricately linked with memory and therefore our connection to the past. Yet we have no smell archives.

It is possible to analyze the chemical compounds of a smell and reproduce the odour. Parfumiers have been doing it for years, and there's a growing world of tech and science dedicated to analyzing, reproducing, and transmitting scents.

This UK artist even has a prototype for a smell-camera, which captures smells you'd like to save for later.

So, why not a Canadian National Smell Archive?

Who wouldn't want a place to go to smell particular Canadian smells? Smells like... boiling sap in an old fashioned sugar shack. The odour of a moose's sweat as it struggles across the muskeg. The reek of a locker room after an overtime Leafs game.

And what about our historian's best guesses at odours of the past? What did John A. MacDonald's aftershave smell like? What would the Plains of Abraham have smelled like after the battle in 1759?

Anyway, here at The 180 we really want to get this idea rolling. But we need your help. Are there particularly Canadian smells we should preserve for the future? What about smells of the past you wish you could smell today? Please, let us know in the comments section below, or send us an email at


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