Dr Claire I R O'Mahony

Profile details


Having joined the Department for Continuing Education in 2006, I created the MSt in the History of Design Programme for which I am Course Director. I served as Director of Graduate Studies for the Department for Continuing Education (2013-16). I am also an Associate of the History Faculty. I was a Governing Body Fellow of Kellogg College (2006-19) where I served as Admissions Tutor (2011-3).

Whilst researching my doctorate under the supervision of Professor John House at the Courtauld Institute, Municipality and the Mural: Townhall Decoration in Third Republic France, I taught at the Courtauld, Birkbeck College, Reading and Thames Valley. My other roles have included of Director of History of Art Lifelong Learning at the University of Bristol (2002-7), Curator for 'Brunel and the Art of Invention' exhibition Bristol City Art Gallery (Brunel 200 project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund) 2006, Education Officer for Community and Secondary School groups at the Courtauld Gallery and Exhibition researcher at the Richard Green Galleries London, founding Assistant Editor of Art on the Line, member of the Centre for the Study of Visual and Literary Cultures in France, University of Bristol (2002-7).

As part of my service as Chair of the Design History Society (2019-22), I was Honorary Officer and Trustee of the Charity and an Editor of the Journal of Design History. I previously served as Research Grant Coordinator (2004-2008) for the DHS.



My teaching addresses the history of art and design (1848-1968). I am Course Director of the Master of Studies programme in the History of Design, taught part-time over two years. This vodcast 'Design not Words: Five Suffragette Objects' gives a glimpse of the research into the material cultures of the Suffragette cause undertaken by MSt in the History of Design students since 2011. Over 80 MSt dissertations have been successfully completed by my supervisees in my care.

Doctoral Supervision

At present I am helping to supervise three doctoral projects: one looking at nineteenth-century building materials (Lily Crowther with lead supervisor Professor William Whyte in the History Faculty), an exploration of the adaptive re-use of historic miltary and religious built environments into new purposes (MInna Colakis with lead supervisor Professor William Whyte in the History Faculty) and a study of luxury ocean liner interiors 1889-1914 (Michalis Foustanos with Dr David Lewis in the Department's Architectural History part-time DPhil programme). My supervisee Emma Anderson completed her DPhil in Architectural History on turn-of-the century luxury hotels in London in 2020. I welcome proposals from prospective doctoral candidates seeking to research visual and material cultures and design produced in Europe between 1870 and 1968.

Research interests

My research centres on the history of decoration in Europe between 1870 and 1968; Third and Fourth Republic France have been my primary focus. The relationships between design writing, materiality and the communication of private and public identity led me to a particular interest in the dialogue between local politics, decorative objects and interiors. Civic mural painting projects, glass, furniture, jewellery, tapestry, exhibition and theatre scenography have been the core case studies of my research. These sites and objects capture my engagement with debates about regional identity and leftist politics with particular acuity. The ways in which 'decoration' has been framed as a gendered and classed practice informs my investigations into the moral and pragmatic dilemmas between industrial processes, handicraft and belonging. 

Select Publications


  • 'Representations of Crafts' in Cultural History of Craft in the Modern Age (1920‒present). edited by Professor Emeritus Clive Edwards (contracted with Bloomsbury for 2023)
  • 'Forging foam at the 1925 Paris Exhibition' chapter in collected volume The Senses and Interior Design edited by Professor John Potvin (in production Manchester University Press for 2022/3). 
  • ‘Billiard table’ in European Sports History in 100 Objects edited by Daphné Bolz and Michael Kruger WWU Münster (manuscript accepted by editors who are seeking publisher). 

Published Books, Chapters and Articles:

Public Service and Engagement

Selected Seminar and Conference Co-Convening and Mentoring, Papers and Public lectures

  • Materiality and Mediation: Global Conversations Virtual Symposium convened by the College Art Association, the Design History Society, and the International Association of Word and Image Studies Tuesday 4th October 2022 (co-convened with Professor Grace Lees-Maffei, Professor Laurence Roussillon-Constanty)
  • 'Folk Cultures and Modern Everyday Objects'  (DHS seminar series co-convened with DHS Ambassador Wiktoria Kijowska (RCA) 18, 25 November and 2 December 2022)


Grant Funding

  • Pasold Fund Research Activity Grant in support of research into tapestry design for public buildings and ocean liners in Le Havre, Aubusson and Paris (2017).

  • Women in the Humanities Research Grant in support research trip to France exploring women's role in the modern tapestry revival (2015).

  • John Fell Fund grant in support of 'Design for War and Peace' 2014 Design History Society Conference and ensuing publication (2014).

  • Design History Society Research Conference Grants to support 'Revisiting the Rite' conference 2013 and Mid-Century Modernism conference 2012 both held at Kellogg College.