Mediating Sensory Experiences

It is in many ways impossible to ‘relive’ the senses of the past. Fleeting sensations are lost to the passing of time. Even if one could recreate exactly all sights, sounds, smells etc, they could not be experienced in the same way as in the past because each time has its own forms of sensory habituation and its own ideas about the meaning of sensations. This does not make the encounter with relics from the past, or with recreations, ‘inauthentic’, however. History is arguably always a sensory experience. While it might be impossible to experience the sensoriality of a different age, museums can create a sensibility for how a the present informs an encounter with the remains and ideas of the past and how people in the past sensed differently. Understanding the past as an embodied experience as well as an intellectual one opens ways to respond to the widespread desire for an immersive experience while communicating the fundamental difference of the senses of the past. As such the past can help to convey a more general point about cultural nature of the senses.

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