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Historic scent materials forgotten in museums


Dec 28, 2015
I had the pleasure of visiting Uppsala in Sweden last week, with focus on a couple of museums there (My day job is about museum support).

At the industrial history museum, there was a small area showing an old soap factory, which shut down 1964. Images of a perfume organ and the larger mixing areas. In the centre of the room was an old scale. It had been saved by the children of the owner, been resting in a basement for decades, and then a couple of years ago, donated to the museum. They asked me to pick up one of the metal plates and smell it. To my surprise, there was a clear and beautiful scent of ambery-vanillic sweetness still impregnated in the metal plate.

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The next day, I visited the museum of medical history. It focuses on medical methods, instruments, machinery and work in the area. As Uppsala is an age-old academic city and has one of the largest hospitals in Sweden, they are of course well supplied with great original material. But a certain room was adapted to show a historical apothecary (chemists in English?). They had huge amounts of bottles saying "Opium", "Arsenik", "Digitalis" and such dramatic materials. On one small shelf I noticed the word "Moschus" on an old porcelain bottle. Of course I couldn't help but opening the lid, and there was a small amount of black grains in the bottom, and a wonderful smell of musk rose from the opened bottle. I was quite surprised that it didn't differ too much from some of the better artificial musks I have myself, but somewhat more complex. I have only read about natural musk, that it is supposed to be completely different, with an animalic, erotic and more dirty attitude. But I must say, this was still an etheric and quite airy scent, only perhaps deeper and as I mentioned, more complex. The guide looked up an old booklet and read that it is supposed to stem from "The musk animal", but there was no dating, so I can't guess how old this is. Much of the other natural materials have not been used in apothecary for many decades, and the exhibition in itself had much focus on how they worked in the early 1900:s. None of the employees or voluntary guides at the museum had any idea that this was in fact a scent material, and quite rare in its animalic origins. As a matter of fact, no one of them had ever opened the bottle to smell it.

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So, as a tip to you all: Have a look at museums if you can find strange and fun forgotten materials somewhere in the collections.



Well-known member
Oct 26, 2021
Thank you for sharing. I imagine it is a beauty to visit a storic place like that.
We need more of that places!

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