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Tour Guide Profile: Matthew Whyte

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Matthew Whyte

Where are you from?:
I was born and raised in Cork, where I currently live in the city along the bank of the River Lee.

What do you do at crawford art gallery?
I lead tours of the collection for a variety of different groups—school, public, corporate, and so on—and contribute an art historical theme to public and private events held in the gallery. My job centres on direct contact with art works, so I use this opportunity to highlight to others the many layers of meaning instilled by artists in their work, from broadest subject to the smallest details of the brush or chisel.

What is your experience/qualifications?
I hold a BA and Master’s degree in Art History, and I am currently studying for a PhD in Art History which I aim to complete in spring 2023. My research since my degree has centred on the Italian Renaissance. For my PhD, I am working primarily on Tuscan art of the late medieval and Renaissance period with an emphasis on sculpture. I explore questions surrounding the religious, social, and political context in which works were made and examine how the two periods related to each other through style and cultural memory. I have lectured in Art History in University College Cork since 2014 and am Programme Coordinator of the Diploma in European Art History in UCC’s Adult Continuing Education department. I also work in cultural tourism and greatly enjoy leading tours of beautiful art and heritage sites internationally.

My work in Crawford revolves around people so it is always new and challenging. The Crawford collection is wonderfully diverse, so there is always an opportunity to isolate specific themes and use the art works to weave together stories about the collection, the artists, and the history of the art works. I really enjoy the interesting dialogue with visitors which is such a frequent aspect of the role. Everyone’s cultural background is different, which means that each visitor sees something unique in the works, and I love to bring out these perspectives through discussion. There are so many other things about the role I love—too many to list here—but being frequently surrounded by art and being able to speak about it in front of the works themselves is truly a gift.

Do you have a favourite artwork, exhibition or gallery space?
Well, I speak about my favourite work in the collection in the video accompanying this post so I’ll say no more about it! However, I really enjoy the Gibson Galleries as a space. The rooms are named after Joseph Stafford Gibson (1837-1919) who, upon his death, bequeathed a massive collection of objects and art, along with a very sizeable sum of money, to the Crawford Gallery, enabling the expansion of the permanent collection. I have seen so many diverse things done with these historic rooms, and every new exhibition is always a treat. The space is relatively small which creates a real sense of intimacy with the works in terms of how they are seen by visitors but also how they relate to eachother. The annual Zurich Portrait Prize is always a rich experience in the Gibson Galleries, and, at present, the historically important exhibition ‘As They Must Have Been’ (30 July – 25 September) curated by Dr. Michael Waldron is an absolute wonder. There really is so much history in those rooms!

What are you special interests or something you always discuss on tours?
Most of my tours will encompass the Canova Casts in the Sculpture Gallery on the ground floor. I have a personal affinity with sculpture so I love to show the Casts and the gorgeous space off. However, they also tell such a fascinating story about the history of the Crawford Gallery and School, the collection, and the history of Cork’s visual culture that I feel they really set the scene for the rest of the collection.

Do you have any fun memories of tours to share? Perhaps a celebrity or a funny question you were asked?
I have lots of great memories from working in the Crawford. I recently gave a private tour to Mr. Joe Duffy from RTÉ who was a wonderfully engaging and interested visitor, and I very much enjoyed hearing his take on our exhibition ‘Rembrandt in Print’ (17 September 2021 – 9 January 2022; a virtual tour of the exhibition can be found at this link: I’ll also never forget my first tour – after spending days reading up on the collection and planning my tour route to make sure it all went well, I woke up that morning to find a rare phenomenon in Ireland: I was snowed in! I lived outside the city at the time so had to ring my colleague in a panic to cover me (thank you, Mike!)

Emmett Place, Cork, Ireland
T12 TNE6
Tel: 021 480 5042

Opening Hours
N.B. Last entry is 15 minutes before closing

Monday–Saturday 10.00am–5.00pm*
Thursday until 8.00pm

Sundays and Bank Holidays
11.00 am4.00pm

*Second floor closes 15 minutes before closing
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