Om utställda djur och populärvetenskapliga konventioner på offentliga akvarier
Cephalopods. On staged animals and popular science conventions at public aquariums.
Keywords: Aquarium, cephalopod, popular science
The article discusses the way animals are portrayed in popular science, using cephalopods at public aquariums as the basis. Public aquariums tend to display a set of animals that could be described as flagship species. These are animals reoccurring as live examples in tanks, used in marketing and sold as toys in the gift shop.
Often, the presentations of these animals are enhanced with scientific facts that are combined with popular cultural stories and well-known iconographies. Together they form what could be labelled as popular science animals, easily recognisable animals with charismatic features. At aquariums, this generally refers to sharks, jellyfish, penguins, frogs or clownfish. The focus is on the biology of the animals, but equal importance is placed on the stories and popular-cultural association frameworks. The popular science animal is comprised of elements from different domains of knowledge, ranging from biology and cultural history to folklore and popular culture. These insights can be contradictory, and one important feature of presentations at aquariums is the endeavour to distinguish between fact and myth. At the same time, the myth is an important resource when curating exhibits and attracting attention. It is part of the convention that the selection of knowledge is not only chosen to inform people about animals but also to entertain and surprise them. The cephalopod is at the crossroad of research and imagination, viewed as enigmatic, fascinating, and fearful. It is characterised as smart, a superhero and a marker for both discoveries and knowledge gaps. The cephalopod, especially the octopus, is an animal that in many ways represents modernity.