Virtual Rome: Interview with Dr. Matthew Nicholls

Virtual Rome

Dr. Matthew Nicholls, University of Reading, sat down with James Lloyd, AHE’s Video Editor, to discuss his Virtual Rome project.

I first met Dr. Nicholls attending one of his ‘Digital Silchester’ classes. This module teaches students how to understand the history and archaeology of the Roman town of Silchester through digital reconstruction. Matthew’s digital reconstructions have been featured on BBC and Discovery documentaries and he has co-taught the British School at Rome’s undergraduate summer school.

The Virtual Rome project recreates the city of Rome c. 317 CE, including vast public buildings such as the Colosseum, and shady backstreets full of tavernas. The techniques required to make such an architecturally diverse model vary, as does the amount of information available to inform the creative process.

In a world of advancing technology Dr. Nicholls looks at how models such as his can be utilised inside (and outside) the classroom in order to bring Rome to life, and how the creative process of building a 3D reconstruction can prompt us to ask important questions about the historical sources that inform our understanding of the eternal city.

Dr. Matthew Nicholls also explains how he first became interested in 3D modelling, and how you can start making your own 3D models of the ancient world using free software such as Sketchup, as well as discussing some of the ways his 3D model is being used elsewhere, such as the MMORPG ‘Life of Rome’.

For more information about the Virtual Rome project and Dr. Nicholls’ research more general please follow the below links:

Still images and videos of Dr. Nicholls’ model were kindly provided for the use of this interview, they remain his copyright, and are not to be reproduced.

Other Photo Credits, in order of appearance (reproduced under Creative Commons):


Filed under: Interviews


James' main area of research is ancient Greek music and Sparta. More generally, classical art & archaeology. A self-confessed philhellene, James keeps at least one eye on the Roman pie.