Dr Gemma Angel

Lecturer in Museum Studies Programme Director MA/MSc Museum Studies (campus-based)

School/Department: Museum Studies, School of



I am an interdisciplinary scholar specialising in the history and anthropology of the European tattoo; histories of museums and collections; museum ethnography and object biographies; the material culture of medicine; human remains in museum contexts particularly medical museums; the historical and contemporary fabrication of human skin into objects of use and display; and modern and contemporary biomaterial art practice.

Prior to joining the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester I was a Lecturer in Visual Material & Museum Anthropology at the University of Oxford. I received my PhD from University College London in collaboration with the Science Museum in 2013 and have trained in fine art tattooing history of art and visual anthropology. My doctoral research was an interdisciplinary study of a nineteenth-century medical collection of 300 preserved tattooed human skins held in the storage archives of the Science Museum London. I am currently working on a book manuscript on the collection.


From 2016-17 I was a Society Fellow at Cornell University Society for the Humanities working on the focal theme Skin. My ongoing research project deals with the symbolic power of the flayed skin as well as the biopolitics and ritual significance of its practical use in the fabrication of objects such as book covers garments tools weapons and display items.

From 2015-2016 I held a Junior Research Fellowship at UCL Institute of Advanced Studies conducting ethnographic work in pathology and anatomy collections at medical schools across London exploring the complex political entanglements of looking affective response and medical knowledge within the medical museum. Taking the 2004 Human Tissue Act (HTA) as an historical catalyst for change and drawing upon theoretical approaches from anthropology and science and technology studies the project investigated shifting discursive spatial and material practices surrounding human remains tracing how the political and ethical status of these materials emerges not from properties inherent within the objects but from the socio-political fields in which they are enacted and made to 'matter'.


(0) Book Chapters:

G. Angel (2017), 'Recovering the Nineteenth-Century European Tattoo. Collections, Contexts, Techniques', in A. Deter-Wolf & L. Krutak (Eds.) Ancient Ink: The Archaeology of Tattooing, (Seattle & London: Washington University Press), pp.107-129.

G. Angel (2015), 'Roses & Daggers. Expressions of Devotion and Emotional Pain in Nineteenth-Century Tattoos', in C. Rosenthal & D. Vanderbeke (Eds.) Probing the Skin. Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone, (Newcastle & London: Cambridge Scholars Press), pp. 211-238.

G. Angel (2013), ‘Atavistic Marks & Risky Practices: The Tattoo in Medico-Legal Debate, 1850-1950', in J. Reinarz & K. Siena (Eds.) A Medical History of Skin: Scratching the Surface, (London: Pickering Chatto), pp.165-179.

Journal Articles:

G. Angel (2016), 'The Modified Body: The Nineteenth-Century Tattoo as Fugitive Stigmata', Victorian Review, Vol. 42 No. 1 (Spring), pp.14-20.

G. Angel (2012), 'The Tattoo Collectors: Inscribing Criminality in Nineteenth-Century France', Bildwelten Des Wissens, 9.1 (Special Issue: Prepared Specimens), pp.29-38.


I am interested in supervising PhD students on medical humanities and material and museum anthropology topics related to human remains the body and the politics of visual display.


I contribute to teaching across Semester 1 on the MA/MSc in Museum Studies and I am Module Lead for MU7016 Objects & Collections: Care Management & Curation. I also offer a Specialism on Museums & Knowledge as part of MU7020.

Press and media

The history and anthropology of the European tattoo; the ethics and politics of human remains in museum collections and repatriation; bioart; the skin in art and culture.
Back to top