Friday News: The “odor wheel,” sensitivity readers, 18th C fashion, and wedding puppies
The Odor ‘Wheel’ Decoding the Smell of Old Books – The scientists who have been collecting scents at historic locations and libraries have now created an “odor wheel” to classify, distinguish, and identify the variety of aromas they have thus far collected. Because people often describe scents in personal terms (e.g. a smell from childhood or from a relative’s home), researchers had to create categories that were both recognizable and duplicable.
“For the historic paper odor wheel we used established smell types and categories, and adjusted them to the character of the objects and space we were dealing with,” they say. “For example, ‘old room’, ‘musty’ and ‘dampness’ were grouped under the main category Earthy/Musty/Moldy. When no existing categories from the [wheel] encompassed the descriptions, a new category was created.”
They also had participants in a different experiment take a whiff of a historic book from 1928, and were initially surprised to find that many of the people described it as “chocolate-y.” That ended up making sense, in a way, they said, because from a “chemical point of view,” coffee and cocoa contain “identical” compounds to those in decaying paper. Other descriptions included, “coffee,” “old,” “rotten socks,” and “mothballs.” – Atlas Obscura
Kids’ book authors and publishers are so afraid to offend they’re hiring “sensitivity readers” – The title made me afraid to read this piece, but I’m glad I persevered, because it’s a good, insightful interview with Jennifer Baker, who works with authors and manuscripts to make sure that they are paying attention to the ways in which they are “representing other cultures” (she specifically works with books representing black characters). In particular, I like her response to the question about the term “sensitivity reader,” which I think can diminish the importance of having someone read for cultural content, as if there is no education or research or expertise necessary for such work.
Where did the phrase “sensitivity reader” come from? Could it have a negative connotation?
The act of sensitivity reading is not new. This has gone on for like two decades, but now it’s being considered part of the production process in publishing. A few years ago a smaller publisher—I forget the name—got backlash for LGBTQ lit that it did.
They said, well, we want to find sensitivity readers. This was maybe two years ago when I first heard the term.
But I agree with you. It has negative connotations. When you’re marginalized, you’re told you’re too sensitive.
So maybe I’m a cultural reviewer in that regard. It’s not that different from a copyeditor who’s very good with grammar that they would clean up your stuff. We’re cleaning it up for racist, homophobic, transphobic, able-ist, Islamophobic material. – Quartz
Elbows, Ankles and Décolletage: Myths of 18th Century Women’s Fashion Part 1 – I would love to know Isabel Carr’s take on this post. I know that some of the statements she makes about Colonial New England are are sound, but I can’t vouch for the rest of the essay. Although I do think in general Westerners have a historically disordered sense of sex and sexuality.
This is where our perceptions of what is, and what is not a sexualized body part come into play. More importantly, how body parts were considered sexual or vulgar has changed significantly. The upper chest, neck, and shoulders – the area referred to as décolletage, was considered a beautiful, but not overtly sexual area of the female body. Where we now consider too much exposed cleavage to be inappropriate, men and women of the 18th-Century did not seem to think much of the swell of the chest. France in the 1790s took this to the extreme with fashions that allowed the breast to swell over the top of the gown. These gowns were shown in numerous fashion plates which were not intended as parody or pornography. . . .
The French captions under each drawing describe only the style and features of the dresses. They make no mention of the exposure caused by these gowns, implying that the low-cut nature was not necessarily expected to shock or offend the viewer. This was another way of displaying one’s wealth. After all, a dress which can so easily slip off the wearer is not designed for rigorous activity. It could only be worn by someone who had no need to perform labor. This would also explain why this extreme fashion never takes foot in the Americas – even wealthy women like Catharine Schuyler, who owned slaves to do the bulk of the labor, still had more hands-on responsibilities than women in the high-courts of France. – Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site
Bridesmaids trade bouquets for rescue puppies in wedding photos – Although bridesmaids posing with puppies is not new, the photos featured in this video story are delightful, as is the fact that all of the rescue puppies featured in the wedding have since been adopted. Yay, some happy news! – ABC News