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The Museum Of Smells

The other day, I was conversing with a local person about how much things have changed in Mallorca over the last twenty or thirty years since I first came to the island. The illa is barely recognisable when compared to the Eighties. The landscape has changed, the attitudes have changed and the general feel has changed. Most of all, though, I thought that the sounds of Mallorca have changed, and the smells. We have photographs and postcards to remind us of what Mallorca looked like a generation ago but, sadly, there is no way to preserve sounds or smells.

Or is there? Alan Lomax, an American musician travelled round the Balearic islands and other Spanish provinces during the Fifties recording local traditional music. I believe a book/catalogue is available of his prolific endeavour from Sa Nostra, including a CD with sound recordings. Wouldn’t it be great to have the sounds of a place digitally catalogued for posterity, and perhaps even have a museum of smells before they, too, become extinct.

By a long way of imagination, the Museo Etnológico in Muro might be such a place. You can’t actually hear any sounds there – the place is almost eerily noiseless – and you certainly can’t smell anything there. But the place is full of things and tools, bottles and equipment which suggest and represent sound and smells. The museum exhibits baking and cooking equipment, a coffee roasting machine, farming, harvesting and threshing equipment, apothecary-type bottles and jars as well as other items galore that hold but don’t impart the smells of bygone times. Quite a fascinating place, bringing back a lot of memories, if that is what speaks to you.

The Museo Etnológico de Muro is part of the Museo de Mallorca in Palma, a museum under the hospices of the Ministerio de Cultura in Madrid. The Muro museum is open daily from 10h00 to 15h00 as well as Thursdays from 17h00 to 20h00. Admission is free. One is not allowed to take photographs (ahem). The Museo de Mallorca in Palma is undergoing a complete overhaul and rebuild and, sadly, will be closed for the foreseeable future.

The photo was taken in Muro, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 10th, 2011. The time was 12:40:12.

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