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Inspiring peopleKatharina Lorenz

Connecting to our past
Lead of Heritage and the Digital
Katharina Lorenz
How would you explain your research?

I try to find out how and why people use pictures – at home, in public, for political or religious purposes, to tell stories about their lives, their desires and their future. I focus on the use of pictures in Greek and Roman culture, from approximately 600BC to 400CE. For example, I have worked on the interior decoration in the houses of Pompeii; currently, I’m really interested in portraiture.

I am also really interested in how people have studied these visual cultures from the 19th century until today, with which methods and tools, and how they have been communicating their findings, e.g. in museum displays. This is also why I am interested in digital technologies, their uses in the cultural heritage sector, and how to employ them to give people a better understanding of archaeological sites and artefacts.

The great thing about my field is that many people are genuinely interested in it
What inspired you to pursue this area?

A desire to find out what was before our time – pictures and things visual fascinate me because of the questions and riddles they pose for analysis.

How will your research affect the average person?

I might be able to give advice on interior decorations, or at least explain existing choices… more seriously, I am trying to give people a better understanding of the past, as an alternative framework for reflection on our own time, and specifically enhance their experience when visiting a museum or an archaeological site.

What’s been the greatest moment of your career so far?

Difficult to pinpoint – seeing the Roman paintings I have been working on "in the flesh" for the first time was very special, particularly stepping into the Casa di Marcus Lucretius Fronto in Pompeii. 

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Keep an open mind and dare to explore new avenues of making sense of the past. Don’t shy away from working with people outside your own field (for better or worse, I’m interdisciplinarily inclined).

What’s the biggest challenge in your field?

The great thing about my field is that many people are genuinely interested in it, notwithstanding all the recent negative talk about the Humanities.  The biggest challenge: preserving the archaeological sites and artefacts, and – not unrelated – funding. The recent history of Palmyra has once more highlighted the fragility of cultural heritage, and just as much its importance.

Who would you most like to meet in your field?

Erwin Panofsky, the art historian and authority on iconography – I translated some of his work and so have spent quite a while in silent dialogue with him. But I am slightly worried that we might not get along.

The recent history of Palmyra has once more highlighted the fragility of cultural heritage
What advice would you give to your younger self?

Travel more, and publish more before completing the doctorate.

If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?

Biochemistry (or possibly be a barista).

If you could go back in time where would you go and why?

Pompeii, 62CE – to find out whether there really was a devastating earthquake (and look at some Roman painting).

What research other than your own really excites you right now?

The development of artificial intelligence.

You’re thrown 100 years into the future – what’s the first thing you’d look up?

The state of the field of classical archaeology.

What should I have asked you that I didn’t?

My favourite place, food, colour, book, piece of music, preferred operating system…


Global Research Theme
Cultures and Communication

Read Katharina's full profile

Dr Katharina Lorenz is Associate Professor in Classical Studies and Director of the Digital Humanities Centre in the Faculty of Arts.


World-class research at the University of Nottingham

University Park
+44 (0) 115 951 5151

Athena Swan Silver Award