Sensory Decay

An online forum from the ‘Sensing the Past’ Research Group (University of Amsterdam), organised by Pamela Jordan and Sara Mura.

Sensing decay in a constructed environment is a multisensory experience. The stages of decay can be transitory and ever-changing. The sensory complexity of decay may be added to or confused by concurrent processes of remaking, rebuilding, and renewal. The symposium aims to consider how we can isolate and record the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of decay within the continuum of deterioration. In tandem, we seek to recognize how particular sensory aspects of decay may prompt cultural responses and actions – this could include the aestheticization of architectural ruins, for instance. Our senses also provide tools to analyse the presence of decay and its temporal stages, for example, in material heritage conservation. A particular methodological challenge is how we, as sensory analysts across disciplines, can record our own often numerous but fast decaying experiences as avenues to questioning and interpreting the past, such as in experimental archaeology.