Animals as Objects and Animals as Signs (completed)

This study of standardisation and visualization of animals examines aesthetic transformations of animals, mammals and birds into objects and signs.

Wild boar tableau mounted by Paolo Savi 1824. Copyright: Museo di Storia Naturale e del Territorio, Università di Pisa

About the project

Using the history of culture and science as point of departure, the aim is to analyse how forms of knowledge and knowing are also influenced by cultural ideas, norms and values which take their rationales from art as well as from everyday life. 

By analysing empirical material taken from natural history museums and literature, as well as from everyday life, the project will:

  • Explain the processes that render animals representations for scientific purposes as well as for social practices.
  • Look for connections between natural history representations and the aestheticization of animals that occurs in everyday life. Here principles and ideals for the form that is the basis for the transformation of animals into objects will be a key area of study.
  • Take a critical look at the aestheticization of animals to determine how this affects our appreciation of animals. This leads from a focus on form to a focus on power and control.

By using aestheticization of animals as path to demonstrating connecting lines between nature and culture that have for the most part been ignored in research, the project will promote dialogue between the natural science subjects and cultural subjects.


The aim of the project is to examine relations between nature, culture and aesthetics. Through five subprojects aestheticization in fields where it is not expected to be found will be examined, looking for moral, ethical and political conflicts that are inherent or triggered by such aesthetic trans­formations.


  • Animal Biographies. The Unnatural history of Animals
  • The Poetics of the Natural History Museum around 1900
  • Animal Celebrities
  • Under the Skin: the Inner Body Landscape
  • Microfaunae in Early Modern Europe
  • Translating Animals, Judging Cultures


The project receives financial support from the Norwegian Research Council.

Published Apr. 9, 2010 12:36 PM - Last modified Apr. 7, 2014 1:19 PM