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The Ark and BeyondThe Evolution of Zoo and Aquarium Conservation$
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Ben A. Minteer, Jane Maienschein, and James P. Collins

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226538327

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226538631.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 28 July 2021

Today’s Awe-Inspiring Design, Tomorrow’s Plexiglas Dinosaur: How Public Aquariums Contradict Their Conservation Mandate in Pursuit of Immersive Underwater Displays

Today’s Awe-Inspiring Design, Tomorrow’s Plexiglas Dinosaur: How Public Aquariums Contradict Their Conservation Mandate in Pursuit of Immersive Underwater Displays

Chapter:
(p.329) Chapter Twenty-Seven Today’s Awe-Inspiring Design, Tomorrow’s Plexiglas Dinosaur: How Public Aquariums Contradict Their Conservation Mandate in Pursuit of Immersive Underwater Displays
Source:
The Ark and Beyond
Author(s):

Stefan Linquist

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226538631.003.0028

Aquarium designers strive, on the one hand, to provide visitors with an immersive underwater experience that simulates an authentic wilderness encounter. On the other hand, most aquariums also express a commitment to conservation, in their mission statements and branding. This chapter argues that the two goals are incompatible. The pursuit of “total immersion” inspires the construction of increasingly massive displays that quickly seem outdated in the face of technological advances. In an effort to recapture public imagination, and in response to waning attendance, aquarium managers often find it necessary to renovate or expand their facilities and collections. Meanwhile, these growing Plexiglas dinosaurs continue to increase their rates of CO2 emission and other ecological impacts. Conveniently, such real-world effects of aquarium expansion are mostly hidden from public view, thanks to disguised life support systems, concealed collecting efforts, and dramatized feeding schedules—all in the service of an immersive visitor experience. In contrast to this model, we are beginning to see the rise of small-scale regional aquariums that make no pretense at immersion. These institutions convey a more genuine conservation message by incorporating life support systems into the displays and, in some cases, returning specimens to the wild.

Keywords:   public aquarium, conservation, immersive display, ecological impacts, visitor attendance, regional aquariums

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