Press Release

11 April 2013

Pioneering research is underway to uncover smells of cities across the world and capture them in unique maps, the latest being sold to the National Library in Scotland.

Kate Mclean, Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design at Canterbury Christ Church University, has created smell maps of Edinburgh, Paris, Glasgow, Manchester and Newport.

Paris smell map
Paris smell map

The most popular way for Kate to create her smell maps, are to go on smell walks. This involves walking around a city with group of people from the local community recording predominant scents that tend to linger. She then bottles the recorded smells, through her own methods, and places them on the appropriate place on a geographical map.

Her other method of creating a smell map is to individually select certain smells and ask the local residents to identify the smell and whereabouts in the city they associate with it. The collected information then allows Kate to produce a colour coded map representing the smells and the area to which they can be smelt.  

Kate is the only British cartographer to explore smell mapping and said: “I love the exploration and discovery of smell mapping. When other kids had posters of pop groups on their walls, I had charts depicting world circumnavigations by famous explorers from Erikson and Magellan to Cook.

“Over the past 15 years I have travelled to many places and become increasingly interested in cities, exploring and recalling them in unexpected ways. I find smells and scents compelling in that they have a power to evoke the ambience and atmosphere of specific places and times.”

So far, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Paris and Manchester have been ‘smelled’ with Milan and Amsterdam next on the agenda. The National Library of Scotland has also purchased and archived five of Kate’s Scottish maps from the growing collection of cities in her research.

Glasgow smell map featuring at Sidney Cooper Gallery
Glasgow smell map featuring at Sidney Cooper Gallery

In the future, Kate intends to create a smell map of Canterbury involving students at Canterbury Christ Church University, the local community and various interest groups to decipher what the city smells like and if those smells spark any memories from people’s childhood or events in their lives. She added: “Smells have stories; those stories are personal but also location-specific. I simply chose to combine smells and maps and now collect stories of smells to create new smell maps of cities worldwide.”

Kate is constantly sniffing around for new projects and she is currently working to create maps of Amsterdam and Milan where her work is being exhibited at the end of this month. Her Glasgow map is also featuring in The Collected, an exhibition at the Sidney Cooper Art Gallery in Canterbury from the 10th to the 27th April for local residents to get a ‘sense’ of what Scotland’s largest city really smells like.


Notes to Editor

To arrange interviews, photographs or for more information of when you can access the Sidney Cooper Gallery, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

  • Kate Mclean is the only British researcher in smell mapping.
  • Her work has been exhibited 15 times across the United Kingdom by a variety of museums, art centres and galleries. 
  • For more information regarding Kate’s research, maps, blogs and awards visit her website:

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With nearly 20,000 students, across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 93% of our recent UK undergraduates are in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • Christ Church is the number one choice for local people looking to study at university in Kent (2011 UCAS).
  • We are the South East’s largest provider of courses for public service careers (outside of London).

*2010/11 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey


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Last edited: 14/12/2018 22:16:00