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School of Library and Information Science Offers First Study Abroad Course

Posted Aug. 9, 2012

By Nicole Gennarelli

SLIS Classmates in Florence, ItalyAfter learning about Kent State’s campus in Florence shortly after joining Kent State’s School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) in 2010, Assistant Professor Kiersten F. Latham, Ph.D., knew she wanted to create a course abroad.

The new graduate Museum Origins course was developed after a year and a half of planning with Deborah Davis, the College of Communication and Information’s coordinator of international programs, and Marcello Fantoni, the former Kent State Florence program director and new Kent State associate provost of global education. The class was a six-week summer course designed for 12 students. The first two weeks are taught online, then two weeks on-site in Florence, ending with two more weeks online.

After all applications were submitted, eight students took the course and traveled to Italy.  Six of the students were SLIS graduate students and two were from other institutions in different states. This course is available to graduate students from all institutions and all Kent State alumni.

“I didn’t make any prerequisites for this course,” Latham said. “It would have probably been better for people to have some museum background coming into this course, but I really wanted to leave it open for people to explore the ideas we were researching about knowledge, knowledge structures and collections.”

Each week students visited four or five museums with the guidance of Fantoni or other professors, but students were given free time each week to visit other museums and places of their choice based on their research topic. Students even took a weekend trip to Rome on their own and were able to visit more museums there, as well.

“The students came so far in what they learned on the trip,” Latham said. “They started out knowing nothing about Renaissance history; these are not historians, we were learning about museums. In the end, the students were making history jokes and nuances related to the Medici, Renaissance artists and Florentine places.” 

“I learned so much not only about Renaissance art and architecture, but Kiersten made sure to educate us on museum collection organization and structure,” said Christine Bowersox, a graduate student in the Library and Information Science program at the University of Buffalo. “It was impressive to see the direction each museum took with its collection and to analyze the choices behind some of the exhibits. I will surely take this analysis back to my own library job when I am discussing how to reorganize our library collection, something we are planning to do in the next few years.”

Throughout the course, both in the United States and Italy, students had to complete readings and formulate a research question that they further studied in Florence. Their findings resulted in a final research paper.

“I believed this course to be of strong importance to my career and looked at it as an investment,” said Kevin Steinbach, Kent State SLIS master’s degree student. “This class is actually what sold me on applying for an M.L.I.S. degree and the fact that Kiersten is such a knowledgeable professional in the field. I knew without a doubt that this class would give me an experience of a lifetime and that I would learn so much about museum studies. Having the chance to immerse yourself in the culture where museums were "born" is something you can’t get anywhere else.”

Latham wants to continue this course every year and eventually expand the course. She thinks changing the course to eight weeks will give students more time to complete their final research paper once they return home.

“This was a once in a lifetime educational experience,” Bowersox said. 

For more information on the Museum Studies specialization and the Museum Origins study abroad class, visit http://www.kent.edu/slis/programs/mlis/museum-studies.cfm.

Media contact: Jennifer Kramer, APR, 330-672-1960, jlkramer@kent.edu