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In recent years, there has been growing interest in the possibility of augmenting the visitor's experience of the exhibits in various art galleries and museums by means of the delivery of a genuinely multisensory experience, one that engages more than just the visual sense. This kind of approach both holds the promise of increasing engagement while, at the same time, also helping to address, in some small way, issues around accessibility for the visually impaired visitor. One of the increasingly popular approaches to enhancing multisensory experience design involves the use of scents that have been chosen to match, or augment, the art or museum display in some way. The various different kinds of congruency between olfaction and vision that have been investigated by researchers and/or incorporated into art/museum displays already are reviewed. However, while the laboratory research does indeed appear to suggest that people's experience of the paintings (or rather reproductions or photos of the works of art) may well be influenced by the presence of an ambient odour, the results are by no means guaranteed to be positive, either in terms of the emotional response while viewing the display or in terms of the viewer's subsequent recall of their multisensory experience. As such, caution is advised for those who may be considering whether to augment their multisensory displays/exhibits with ambient scent.

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Journal article



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art, congruency, multisensory experience design, museum, olfaction