New Museum Origins course born from Florence

Kelsey Husnick

Serendipity played a hand in forming the new Museum Origins course, assistant professor Kiersten Latham said.

Latham joined Kent State in 2010 to start a museum studies specialization in the School of Library and Information Science for graduate students.

She soon learned of Kent State’s campus in Florence, Italy. She knew right away she wanted to form a course there.

She then discovered the director of the Kent State Florence program at the time, Marcello Fantoni, was a Renaissance scholar.

“It just fell together,” Latham said. “It made sense.”

Latham worked closely with Fantoni and Deborah Davis, the international coordinator for the College of Communication and Information, for a year and a half before making the course a reality.

What developed was a six-week summer course designed for up to 12 students. The course is taught online for four weeks and in Florence for two.

Despite more than 100 requests for applications into the course, only eight students attended the class after the reality of cost was factored in.

Students visited four museums a week and were guided by Fantoni or other professors.

“Seeing the images and objects of the museum with the help of Renaissance experts from Kent State Florence deepened my experience,” said Debbie Bussinger, a graduate student who took the class. “Because of this course, I will approach future learning experiences of this nature differently. I will seek out experts and ask more thoughtful questions instead of relying on my own observations.”

Afternoons were free for students to participate in class discussions and personal museum visits of their own, and a long weekend was allowed for travel or relaxation.

“I know doing a museum is exhausting, so I didn’t want to overdo it,” Latham said. “I wanted them to go through a museum and really think about that museum that day and not wonder, ‘Which museum did I think that in?’”

Throughout the course, both online and in Italy, students had to formulate and explore a research question, resulting in a final research paper at the end of the class.

Latham said she hopes to make this a permanent course, with more students and possibly more sections in the coming years.

Contact Kelsey Husnick at [email protected].