Night falls on the African savannah. Hidden by the tall grass, a stone’s throw from a water point, we see the slim silhouette of a wild beast that comes to quench its thirst. Between drinks, his bright eyes scan the surroundings for a possible intruder. Attracted by the smell of the savanna, the realistic sound of insects, and the intimidating presence of the predator in 8K on the big screen, our bodies instinctively stiffen. However, we are hosted in the facilities of the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN), which will host, from October 23 to July 4, The Sensory Odyssey, an immersive experience of a new kind.
“For the first time, an exhibition has no object of contemplation or explanation shown. Everything passes through feeling and emotion”, explains Bruno David, president of the MNHN. Immersion is achieved first through hearing and sight thanks to the spatialized soundscapes and the provision of large-format projection screens (up to 17 meters long and 4.5 meters high) that surround the visitors, projecting them in several different ecosystems (savanna, canopy, ocean …). However, throughout this initiatory journey, all our senses are called upon. Thus, the passage of visitors causes curiosity or the flight of animals, the revelation of camouflaged species. We feel the wind that rises, the arrival of the rain … The sensation of immersion is reinforced by the diffusion of twenty smells. “The very idea of integrating the olfactory dimension in a show is not new. Some have already tried it in the past. But here, the theme is nature. The fact of using aromas gives it a greater reality and allows to generate emotions. Therefore, it is not a gadget ”, explains Gwenaël Allan, founding president of the company Expeditions spectacles, which organizes the exhibition.
Scents to create excitement
The International Flavors & Fragrances laboratory, which manufactures flavors for the perfume industry and flavors for the food industry, has participated in research and development. An olfactory healing work was carried out with the magazine Nez, so that the selected aromas come to underline the narration and amplify the desired emotion. A French start-up is responsible for the system of diffusion of molecules in the air. “It was necessary to avoid any risk of allergy, any health problem, and at the same time to be able to create different smells in the same room in a few minutes without any mixing. Finally, there are many novelties in this product. “observes Gwenaël Allan.
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The combination of knowledge in museology, cognitive sciences, multimedia technologies and scenography elevates the viewer experience to a new level. “We bet on conscience through amazement”, enthuses Bruno David. It is even planned to record, in 2022, the brain activity of volunteer visitors in order to study “their behavioral and emotional responses.” Setting up an exhibition no longer just requires creativity. It also becomes science.
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