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FLOTSAM: Fragrance

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342984.  Fri May 23, 2008 10:50 am Reply with quote

Question: Why did the East German Secret Police steal people’s underwear?

Forfeit: None

Answer: The Stasi kept a collection of smells collected from dissenters so that they could use them to train sniffer dogs.

When the Berlin Wall fell, the Stasi headquarters were ransacked. In a small room revellers found hundred of jars labelled with people’s names and stuffed with pieces of fabric. These pieces of fabric contained the smell of hundreds of people that the secret police considered to be dissenters, and were to be used to train East German smell hounds. The jars can now be seen in the Stasi Museum in Berlin.

There were a number of tactics that the Stasi used to collect smells, originally they handed the subjects a yellow cloth and asked them to wipe an armpit or groin. Then they invented "the smell sample chair", a perforated metal chair with a tray underneath the seat where they put the yellow cloth to collect sweat and scent which dropped down. Finally, they also broke into peoples homes and stole their clothes and underwear.

In 2007, the German authorities revived this tactic and started to put together a database of scents, they began with possible violent protesters at the G8 summit who were made to hold metal rods from which their scents were collected.

The smell of Stasi fabrics was recreated this year by contemporary art curator Robert Blackson and his smell consultants, in an art exhibition called “If There Ever Was – a book of extinct and impossible smells”. Along with the Stasi smell, they created the smell of the sun (similar to brass polish), of Hiroshima (metallic and pungent) and the Mir Space Station (the smell of sweaty socks – vodka and body odour meant that Mir’s air filtration system became blocked with formaldehyde and stopped working)

NASA employs a team to smell every single piece of equipment which goes onto its space flights. George Aldrich and his team ensure that no items which could change the delicate balance of the climate of the International Space Station and the space shuttle.

Further sources:
Trip to Reg Vardy Galler
If there ever was - R. Blackson

Picture Ideas
German Policeman and some underwear
Close up of nose sniffing

342994.  Fri May 23, 2008 11:16 am Reply with quote

343003.  Fri May 23, 2008 11:32 am Reply with quote



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