Dr Pandora Syperek

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Institute for Design Innovation


Dr Pandora Syperek is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Institute for Design Innovation and a Visiting Fellow at the V&A Research Institute. Her research examines the intersections of art and science, gender and the nonhuman within cultures of display. Pandora is module leader for Design & Identity and an dissertation supervisor.

Academic background

Pandora has taught on modern and contemporary art and curatorial practice at the postgraduate and undergraduate levels at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, University College London and York University, Toronto. She has been invited to deliver seminars, talks and lectures in various international contexts.

She was Research Associate on the AHRC-funded project Counter-Framing Design (2020-2023), led by Principal Investigator Dr Sharon Prendeville. The research involved design anthropology, ethnographic field research, critical discourse analysis and participatory practice to examine and engage in design for social change. Pandora extended this research to investigate sustainability frames in arts organisations and curatorial practice.

From 2016-2017 Pandora was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, where she developed her PhD research into the gendering of objects on display in the Natural History Museum, London. She holds a SSHRC-funded 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 Studio Art from Concordia University, Montreal.

Current research and collaborations

‘Ornament and Grime: Animal Excess in the Bethnal Green Museum, 1872-1928’ involves collections-based, archival and interdisciplinary research to examine more-than-human design on display in the V&A’s historical collection of Animal Products. The project investigates evolutionary and aesthetic concepts of excess in relation to ornament, utility and waste in the Museum’s East London outpost. In collaboration with the V&A, RADAR and contemporary artists and designers, the research aims to facilitate dialogue between pressing museological concerns regarding ecology and legacies of empire with local communities and their histories.

Through the ongoing collaborative research project Curating the Sea with Dr Sarah Wade, Pandora has co-edited the anthology Oceans: Documents of Contemporary Art (Whitechapel Gallery/MIT Press, 2023) and a special issue of the Journal of Curatorial Studies titled ‘Curating the Sea’ (2020). The project has included an international symposium at the Institute for Advanced Studies, UCL; an interview with natural history curators published in the Science Museum Group Journal ; Artists/Oceans, a series of online artist talks; and presentations at various universities and museums. Pandora and Sarah were recently awarded a Paul Mellon Centre Collaborative Project Grant to continue this research.

Pandora has published numerous book chapters and journal articles, including on ‘Hope’ the Natural History Museum’s blue whale skeleton, Victorian insect culture and the Blaschka glass models of marine invertebrates. An entry on ‘Animal Studies’ for the Johns Hopkins Guide to Critical and Cultural Theory is forthcoming.

Current PhD / research supervisions

Museology and curatorial studies, gender and sexuality in modern and contemporary visual-material culture and the history of science, ecology and the Anthropocene, critical ocean studies, feminist new materialisms, posthumanist theory, critical animal studies, more-than-human design and intersections of art and science.

Interests and activities

Pandora has contributed to contemporary art periodicals including C Magazine, Canadian Art, MAP Magazine and thisistomorrow, as well as artist monographs and exhibition catalogues. She was awarded the Canadian Art Writing Prize in 2010. She previously worked as a curatorial assistant and programme coordinator at the Banff Centre for the Arts, Canada, and as a curatorial apprentice at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. She is a member of the College Art Association, Association for Art History and British Association for Victorian Studies.
Pandora is passionate about the politics of maternity and care, and is involved with the Parents and Carers Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) group at LUL. In May 2022 she facilitated a session on ‘Caring and Precarity’ for early career researchers at the Paul Mellon Centre.
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