Studies show that people remember and learn better when scent is part of an experience. For the Point Defiance Visitor Center, I created an interactive for visitors to encounter a variety of scents representative of the park experience.
I wanted each scent to be contained; not interfering with other scents or bothering visitors who are scent sensitive.
For the source of the scents, I looked at essential oils, available through various retail outlets, and at scented beads produced by a major commercial scent system manufacturer. In the end, I choose the oils. Though they represent a narrower range of scents, the oils are less expensive and more readily available. I tested to find scents that were distinct. The final array included seaweed, rose, lavender, cedar, Douglas fir, and rhododendron.
For delivery, I created "scent boxes" and an "inhaler collection." The personal inhalers were purchased retail, and I made the scent boxes myself (magnetized spice canisters set in wooden craft boxes). Both had the advantage of keeping oil-soaked cotton enclosed; containing the scent and extending the life of the oil. I did not have to reapply the oil during the three-month summer season. Preliminary testing indicates that the boxes are more likely than the inhalers to be used by visitors, who were invited to "guess the smell."
I'm looking forward to continuing to experiment with scents in exhibits!