General Fiction posted March 19, 2023

Scents of ''The Australian Experience''

Scents and senses

by Wendy G

We Australians were excited to read about the new scent-based art gallery – but New York City is a bit far for us, even though we’re used to travelling vast distances. A creative young Australian entrepreneur has developed his own innovative version – a multi-sensory experience.

How to decide from the varied and plentiful array of destination rooms?

I chose the “Australian Experience”, entering first into the Rainforest Room where digital images of a rainforest were projected onto the walls and ceiling. Clever! Rainbow lorikeets and vividly coloured parrots fluttered through the trees, with noisy and happy bird calls. A feast for eyes and ears.

As I watched, entranced, I saw images of dark rainclouds gathering, and I smelled that delicious smell just before a tropical storm – the fresh smell of raindrops, nurturing and revitalising. Within a minute another scent, delicate and subtle wafted through the space. I immediately recognised the freshness of Lemon-Scented Gums. The images were changing. A tropical storm now, and the air was heavy with the two scents mingling: rain and lemon. My skin tingled with pleasure.

Could anything be better? My next choice was the Beach Room. Images of bright blue skies, golden sands and deep blue-green waters covered all surfaces. I watched frothy waves foam onto the beach and heard the delighted squeals of small children. I could see those purple wildflowers growing in the dunes. Magnificent. A soft breeze wafted through the room carrying with it the freshness of salty ocean water. Does sunshine have a smell also? I think it does. I remember the washing on outdoor clotheslines, absorbing the fresh smell of sunshine and vitamins.

Here I watched surfers catching waves, observed golden bodies lying on sandy beach towels – and yes, I smelled another fragrance. Sun-cream. The summer smell of zinc cream on noses and various sun-block products for tanned bodies. A beautiful scent. The scent of summer, the scent of the beach.

About to leave, I noticed that the images now focussed on the strip beside the beach. Fishermen were cleaning their catch on worn brown benches while seagulls and pelicans observed, eagerly awaiting the scraps to be thrown to them. The smell of fresh fish! And there was the little beach shack selling freshly cooked fish and chips – another salty smell, quite tantalising. Locals and beachgoers were sitting on the grass enjoying the morning’s catch. Sights, sounds and smells intermingled.

One last room. I chose “Suburbia”. The projected images were of ordinary homes, but as I proceeded, a variety of fragrances wafted into the air. Firstly, an Indian curry – definitely Tandoori chicken, with fragrant rice spiced with cardamoms and cloves! Exotic.

Next, the aroma of Vietnamese street food, with lemongrass and coriander. Could anything smell better? African, Thai, Chinese …. How pleased I felt to live in a multi-cultural society.

Wait, the images have changed – a picnic area in a suburban park. The women setting out cold salads of all kinds; the men cooking on the outdoor barbecues. Steak and onions! No doubt about that aroma! I could almost taste that succulent steak. I was salivating. So were the pet dogs, hovering around the men. The children were chasing away the ever-present flies. I do believe those twigs they‘re flapping around at the flies are from lemon-scented gums!

Such is life in Australia. I must visit this special museum again – there are many more rooms! Sensory overload. Sight and sound are wonderful, but the sense of smell is a luxury, completing the immersion experience.


This story is fiction. I don't think anyone has yet created such an immersion experience in Australia, although there is small project in Brisbane focussing just on scents. Yet all the scents are true and real.

Lemon-scented gums are native to northeast temperate and tropical forests of Australia, but can grow well in warm, humid areas with average temperature ranges of 86-90F (30-32C).

''Since the turn of the century, the use of smell in attractions has increased dramatically as our understanding of and appreciation for sensory engagement has grown. Of all the senses, smell is the one most linked to emotion and memory; being connected directly to the limbic system in our brains. This gives scent enormous power and explains its explosion into the�?� museum and heritage worlds.''

Scents of the City exhibition captures what Brisbane smells like. One hundred residents were asked for their responses for a new interactive exhibition ''Scents of the City'', part of a bigger project. The top four smells were mangroves, sunshine, frangipani and thunderstorms.

Club entry for the "Smell Museum" event in "Flash Fiction/Nonfiction".  Locate a writing club.
Pays 10 points and 72 member cents (and maybe more).

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