Inter-disciplinary Investigations

More research and communication is needed to better understand how the senses have shaped the physical form and lived experience in different cities. Researching and representing the senses of the past poses different methodological challenges than researching the present. Most of the data gathering techniques developed to map the senses focus on the present rather than the past and cannot be directly applied to historical research: for all but the most recent past, it is impossible to interview, observe or ‘walk-along’ the people of past ages. Instead historians and curators have to rely on the sources that survived. The methods developed across the social sciences are nevertheless useful for researching the past. They first of all can help to develop a systematic and reflective approach to the variety of sensory experiences that exist in a given place. We can then ask questions about how and why the sensory experience of places and people changed over time. In turn, the historians can draw attention to past sensory traces (or their absences) that are often overlooked if the focus is only on the present.

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