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Museum Studies in Siena

The most frequent I get asked in Italy is “why did you decide to come to Siena?” My answer, before I left the United States, was, “I want to be in Italy for study abroad, and the Siena School offers a museum studies track.” Now that I have been in Siena for almost a month and a half and my experience is nearly half over, my answer has changed.

The Siena School for Liberal Arts and the Siena Art Institute both offer many different experiences of Siena through their tracks. When looking into study abroad programs, I already knew that as an Ancient Studies Major, I was heading to Italy. I was attracted to SSLA because of its museum studies program. Museum studies opportunities for undergraduates are few and far between, and I knew that being surrounded by the Medieval history of Siena and its museums would serve me well. An extra bonus is that the school is in the oldest part of the city. Knowing that the school building is full of its own rich history is also exciting!

The museum studies track has given me a special insight into Tuscany’s history. Throughout the semester, my classes travel to various museums throughout the region where we have a chance to get a glimpse of museum curating first-hand. I am also interested in understanding how societies have decided what aspects from their history that they keep or change, and what gets forgotten completely. Thus far, two of my favorite places in Siena are Santa Maria Della Scala and the Duomo. Santa Maria Della Scala is a hospital-turned-museum, while the Duomo is Siena’s Cathedral. They are beautiful nods toward what Siena was, and what Siena is now. Santa Maria Della Scala is the perfect example of the way many Tuscan cities have repurposed former spaces and found new uses for them. Another highlight was going to the Uffizi in Florence and getting to see some of the timeless masterpieces of Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio!

Now, when people ask me about the reason I came to Siena, I am able to answer quite confidently... I came to Siena to be surprised about my prior assumptions of what an Italian experience would be like. I came to Siena for the history, the beauty, and the opportunities that it has presented me. I came to Siena to become part of its long history of melding the old with the new, and to attempt to understand how Siena’s history has influenced the contemporary world.

Emily Isakson

Siena School for Liberal Arts student