Dr Pandora Syperek

Research Associate, Institute for Design Innovation


Dr Pandora Syperek is Research Associate on the AHRC-funded research project Counter-Framing Design at the Institute for Design Innovation. She is a historian of modern and contemporary art, design and display culture, with special interests in gender and the nonhuman.

Working with Dr Sharon Prendeville, Senior Lecturer and Principal Investigator on the Counter-Framing Design project, Pandora is undertaking research into emerging frames in the sustainability movement and how design can respond meaningfully to these ‘counter-frames’ for social change. This involves methodologies including design anthropology, ethnographic field research, critical discourse analysis and participatory practice. In conjunction, she is undertaking research into how such framing can be applied within arts and curatorial practice for sustainability.

Academic background

Pandora’s academic background is in the history of art and visual culture with a specialism in museums and curatorial studies. She has taught on modern and contemporary art and curatorial practice at the postgraduate and undergraduate levels at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, UCL and York University, Toronto. From 2016-2017 she was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for the History of Art. She holds a PhD in the History of Art from UCL, an MA in Art History and Graduate Diploma in Curatorial Studies from York University, Toronto, and a BFA in Art History and Practice from Concordia University, Montreal. 

Current research and collaborations

Pandora is currently preparing her first monograph, which investigates how natural-cultural objects on display in the Natural History Museum, London – including crystals, glass models of sea creatures, taxidermy hummingbirds and preserved beetles – were gendered in relation to both scientific theory and visual-material culture.

She recently co-edited a special issue of the Journal of Curatorial Studies on ‘Curating the Sea’ (autumn 2020), coming out of a symposium at the Institute for Advanced Studies, UCL, which brought together international scholars and curators to discuss ocean ecology in recent exhibitions. Pandora’s article on ‘Hope’, the Natural History Museum’s blue whale skeleton, makes the case for alternative ecologies of display.

Her next research project examines more-than-human design on display, investigating the role of sexual selection and related ideas of excess in the intersection of human and animal ornament and how this is reflected in the imperial institution of the museum.

Pandora is currently writing an entry on ‘Animal Studies’ for the Johns Hopkins Guide to Critical and Cultural Theory.

Interests and activities

Pandora has contributed to contemporary art periodicals including C Magazine, Canadian Art, MAP Magazine and thisistomorrow. She was awarded the Canadian Art Writing Prize in 2010.

She previously worked as a curatorial assistant and visual arts residencies coordinator at the international arts centre the Banff Centre, Canada, and as a curatorial apprentice at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.

Pandora is a member of the College Art Association, Association for Art History and British Association for Victorian Studies.

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