Obsession: The Face of the Stasi

By Ivor Bolton.

Ivor Bolton

“My research concerns how the GDR (German Democratic Republic) are represented through museums and memorials, including investigating how the socialist State is depicted through exhibition and display.”

 "The photograph shows airtight preservation jars containing olfactory samples obtained from citizens of the GDR who were interviewed by the ‘Stasi’ – the East German Security Police. The olfactory samples were stored as part of the security records, and if necessary could be used to confirm an identity or to help trace a person.

Memorial museums in present-day Germany have an obsession with these items, and use them extensively as exhibits. The choice of the ‘smell-samples’ as exhibits is significant because the ultra-personal nature of the contents of the jars prescribes the impressions that museum/memorial visitors get of what life in the GDR was like."

The photograph was taken in: “Stasi. The exhibition on the GDR’s State Security” in Zimmerstrasse 90, Berlin.

Ivor Bolton is a postgraduate researcher in the School of Government and Society.

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