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The restaurant critic Tejal Rao recently created a “personal smell museum” of her life in Los Angeles, cataloging the aromas she encountered in her home and her office, the scent of vanilla she detected when driving past a commercial bakery. I asked her why she thought a smell museum was such a vital way to document her life.

“Every time you notice a smell — fresh bread, your best friend’s house, a wet dog, garlic frying in butter — it means volatile particles in the air have entered your body and, just for a moment, become a part of you,” she said. “There is no sense more intimate, or more complex, which is why recalling your own personal smell memories can be so precise, vivid and even emotional. Your recollections might be one day, or several decades old, but that smell was once a part of you.”

We asked New York Times readers what smells they would archive in their own smell museums, what scents are so alive for them that they have become part of them. Here’s what they told us. — MELISSA KIRSCH


— Aimee Ross, 15, Inverness, Scotland

— Marc Rosenberg, 32, Brooklyn


— Lindsey Cox, 43, Thomasville, N.C.

— Anne Ladau, 85, Patterson, N.Y.

— Sarah B., 33, Wisconsin

— Juanita Pérez Vargas, 57, Vienna


— Ashley Scherff, 35, Honolulu

— Jeanne Prittinen, 60, Northern Minnesota


— Magdalen Livesey, 76, Wilton, Conn.

— Maureen Bradford, 53, Stevensville, Mich.

How can we help you lead a better, more fulfilling life at home during the pandemic?

— Nancy Pennea, 68, South Florida

— Kane Clawson, 58, Northwest Connecticut


— Serena Kelsch, 41, Los Angeles

— Rachel Donegan, 46, New Hampshire

— Annika Eichenlaub, 52, Atlanta

— Jen Topp, 50, Bethlehem, Pa.


— Elvira Barga, 66, South Puget Sound, Wash.

— Sam Alviani, 33, Denver

— June Effler, 70, Toledo, Ohio

— Janet S. Bryan, 64, Sioux Falls, S.D.

— Jennifer Borgogno, 43, Apex, N.C.

— Lesley Bentley, 57, Vancouver, Canada



— Maurice Harding, 81, Princeton, N.J.

— Donna Lovelady, 57, Indianapolis

What scents would you put in your own “personal smell museum”? Tell us: Include your full name, age and location.

Source: Welcome to Our Museum of Smells – The New York Times