Jade French awarded Arts Council England funding for a ‘smell mapping’ museum project

Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum in Widnes, Cheshire, has received funding to support a new community-led project.

Two Centuries of Stink: Smell Mapping Widnes, Past and Present has been developed by Jade French, Catalyst’s Community Engagement Coordinator and an alumna of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies.

Jade recently completed her PhD on inclusive curating and is currently a Visiting Research Fellow in the School, teaching History of Art and Museum Studies.

This project is to be funded by Arts Council England’s National Project Lottery Grants with support from Wellcome Trust’s Inspiring Science Fund.

Jade will be commissioning world-renowned artist and researcher Kate McLean — who has spearheaded the practices of ‘smellwalking’ and ‘smellscaping’ — to work with the museum collection and local community to explore the smells, scents and stinks of Widnes from the 19th century up to the present day.

Jade French said:

“Widnes is a town famous for its smell. This project will not only explore how smell links to the town’s rich heritage as a place of chemical manufacturing as reflected in our museum, but also work with local people to map how the area smells today.

“The project very much speaks to the research I am undertaking on inclusive curating within the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies — examining how museums can be civic resources for communities to discuss the important issues in their lives like industry and pollution.”

Catalyst will be searching for local people to participate in this project, working alongside the artist to produce both memory based and ‘nose-first’ data that will be translated into an original series of ‘smell maps’ exhibited over the summer of 2020.

Artist Kate McLean said:

“I am delighted to be working with Catalyst and communities around Widnes over the next 12 months exploring and examining their smelly industrial heritage.

“Fragrance, smell, whiffs and pongs have been a part of the local landscape for many years and it will be exciting to uncover the tools and processes used, and the comments of those who had direct experience.”

More information about Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum and the Two Centuries of Stink: Smell Mapping Widnes, Past and Present project can be found here.


Detail from a postcard showing Widnes in the early 1900s. Courtesy of Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum.