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Abstract

Given the inaccessibility of the marine environment, the closest many of us come to viewing it is at public aquariums. Aquariums also provide us with rich aesthetic experiences, but it is not clear whether we appreciate the marine environment at aquariums. I present the dilemma of aquarium appreciation as an inconsistent triad: 1) we treat aquariums as places to appreciate marine environments, 2) aquariums are artifacts, not natural objects, and 3) nature and art should be appreciated differently. I argue that aquarium displays are scientific models of marine environments with aesthetic, educational, and scientific aims. My solution to the dilemma involves accepting the paradox and modifying 2. By appreciating displays as the kind of artifacts they are, we are better able to appreciate the marine environment.

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