Clare Matthews

Clare Matthews

Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies
Doctoral researcher
Teaching Assistant

Contact details

Phd title: Classical culture and the industrial town
Supervisors: Dr Kate Nichols (University of Birmingham) and Dr Mark Bradley (University of Nottingham)
PhD History of Art


  • BA Classics (University of Cambridge)
  • MA Classical Art & Archaeology (King's College London)


I am a Midlands4Cities-funded doctoral researcher (2017-2020), supervised by Dr Kate Nichols (University of Birmingham) and Dr Mark Bradley (University of Nottingham). I gained my BA in Classics from the University of Cambridge in 2012, followed by my MA in Classical Art & Archaeology at King’s College London. From January 2015 to September 2017, I worked as an assistant in the Whipple Library at the University of Cambridge, the UK’s largest specialist library in the history and philosophy of science. Here, I developed my interest in industrial Britain and the social, political and cultural transformations of the nineteenth century and I was involved in a range of outreach and public engagement programmes. 


  • Postgraduate Teaching Assistant for Historical Concepts in the History of Art, First Year BA History of Art Module (2018-2019), involving planning and teaching seminar sessions and marking assessed essays.


This project analyses the role of classical visual culture in nineteenth-century industrial Britain, focussing on Birmingham. It examines how this town engaged with the iconography and traditions of ancient Greece and Rome through public collecting practices, architecture and artistic production, and situates this within wider contexts of nineteenth-century industrial Britain.

My research asks: How was classical antiquity displayed throughout Birmingham in the nineteenth century? What impact did the visual culture of Greece and Rome have on the formation of civic identity, both in relation to viewing experiences and concerns surrounding the potential edifying role of art and architecture? How far was Birmingham representative of other industrial towns in Britain in its appropriation of antiquity? And to what extent was this appropriation symptomatic of broader uses and interpretations of the ancient world?

My research challenges understandings of classical culture within Victorian Britain, specifically in the West Midlands, firstly in bringing visual culture into focus, and secondly in providing new perspectives through its relationship with the industrial city. In its interdisciplinary approach, my methodology engages with the scholarship of Classical Reception, Victorian Studies, Art History and Museology. Exploring the role of classical culture against a background of immense social and cultural change, I analyse how the ancient was viewed and experienced, and how it was engaged with as public cultural property.

Research interests:

  • Relationships between art and industry
  • Histories of collecting
  • Classical art and gender studies
  • Reception of classical antiquity
  • Victorian cultural studies
  • Nineteenth-century British art
  • History of sculpture
  • Exhibitions and museum history
  • Architecture and public spaces
  • Museums and the Heritage Sector
  • University Outreach and Widening Participation

Other activities

Professional memberships:

  • The British Art Network
  • The British Association for Victorian Studies
  • The Classical Association
  • The Victorian Society

Conference papers:

  • ‘A Classical Temple for the Industrial Town’ – poster presentation at Midlands3Cities Research Festival, May 2018
  • ‘A Classical Temple in the Modern Age: Birmingham’s Town Hall’ – paper delivered at Echoes: A Symposium on Classic-Modern Relations, University of Birmingham, April 2018