The Stasi -- East German secret police -- kept an enormous museum of "smell samples" of German citizens, kept in case they ever needed to give hunting dogs the scent of a fugitive criminal.
The thing about the Stasi is that they illustrate just how daffy any totalitarian authority structure necessarily becomes. Tyrants all have their Rasputins, mystic goonybirds whose theories about human biology, governance, magic, and life end up steering the state into ever-tighter circles of rabid tail-biting.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many astounding revelations came to light about the Stasi, the East German secret police. One of the more bizarre activities the Stasi was found to have engaged in was the collection of Geruchsproben – smell samples – for the benefit of the East German smell hounds. The odors, collected during interrogations using a perforated metal “smell sample chair” or by breaking into people’s homes and stealing their dirty underwear, were stored in small glass jars. Many of the remaining East German smell jars are on display at the Stasi Museum in Berlin. They are also described in Stasiland by Anna Funder.
The Stasi smell jars suggest an interesting question: Is there a museum dedicated to the sense of smell anywhere in the world, an institution whose mission is the accumulation of aromas for public appreciation? The Bible Museum in Amsterdam has a collection of about a dozen bilbical odors, such as frankincense and myrrh, for visitors to sample, but surely there must be some grand cabinet of smells somewhere – and not just behind the closed doors of a perfume manufacturer, or in the back of an organic chemistry lab. Where?
Stasi chief was an Orwell fan, bent reality to get room 101
Secret rooms of the Stasi: photos by Daniel and Geo Fuchs
Update: Noah sez, "The Stasi smell museum may represent 'just how daffy any totalitarian
authority structure necessarily becomes.' But what does that say
about the U.S.' own scent-collection efforts?"
Neglected public payphones in New York City are being turned into “GuyFi” stations: a place where one can rub one out for the sake of “stress relief.” Annalee Newitz reports on the wank booths from a company named “Hot Octopus”… The company reported that at least 100 men used the booth on its opening day […]
You’d be forgiven for thinking the videocassette format long-dead, but it turns out that Betamax is still around. Sony is finally going to withdraw tapes from sale, bringing a 40-year story to an end. The last recorders were sold in 2002. ベータビデオカセットおよびマイクロMVカセットテープ出荷終了のお知らせ [Sony; via The Verge]
A leaked Comcast memo discloses that the company’s consumer data caps have nothing to do with network congestion, contrary to its public claims. The internet service provider has often complained (such as when lobbying against net neutrality) that it must impose limits on service to prevent network congestion. The argument suggests that these measures are […]
It’s 2016 and we like our technology really small. Our phones fit in our pockets, our remotes are lighter than ever, and even our cars seem to be shrinking. So your new drone shouldn’t be an exception. This Axis VIDIUS Drone is 21% off right now and it’s so little, your biggest problem won’t be […]
You’ve heard the news: cyber security is the new and very scary frontier. Hackers are out there just waiting for you to relax for a second and let them in. But that’s not going to happen to you. With a lifetime premium subscription to ZenMate VPN, you’re completely protected from anyone out there who wants […]
Remember back to the time when people thought java was just a hip way to talk about coffee? Or you vaguely remembered from geography class that it’s an island in the South Pacific? We’ve come a long way since then and now that we’ve rocket blasted into the tech future, you’re going to need to […]