Digitizing the Past
KSU students preserve historical records in Italy
(Aug 2, 2019) — Dignitaries from the Tuscan town of Montepulciano, Italy, hosted a reception to commemorate
the hard work of Kennesaw State University Education Abroad students who digitized
more than 2,000 handwritten documents in the town’s archives. Many of these records,
some of which date from the mid-14th century, are connected to the town’s business
and the construction of San Biagio, a classic-styled Renaissance church.
The mayor of Montepulciano, Michele Angiolini, officially recognized the efforts of the 14 students participating in a summer semester course on the art and archaeology of Italy, and Philip Kiernan, assistant professor of art history in the College of the Arts.
A live video link allowed KSU’s Division of Global Affairs based on the Kennesaw Campus to witness the commemoration occurring at the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Enoliteca, a wine educational facility near the KSU in Tuscany facility.
“We salute the hundreds of Kennesaw State Education Abroad students who travel the globe in search of unique educational experiences like these every year,” said Ron Matson, senior associate vice president for academic affairs and interim vice provost for global affairs. “Education Abroad engages students, faculty and the community with our increasingly interconnected and globalized world.”
The archives project, part of Kiernan’s summer semester course, gave students the opportunity to obtain practical experience in cultural heritage management.
“The students assisted in the preservation of thousands of handwritten documents held by Montepulciano’s archives,” said Kiernan. “Many of the documents relate to the construction of the church of San Biagio, an important Italian Renaissance church that was designed and built by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder between 1518 and 1540.
“Another important document was a book of letters written by Tuscan rulers, bishops and popes to the town of Montepulciano in the 16th century, many of which are signed by members of the powerful Medici family,” Kiernan said.
In a separate project, Kiernan said students photographed and drew a collection of ancient Etruscan and Roman inscriptions and relief carvings that were attached to the side of the Palazzo Bucelli in the early 18th century. These monuments date to the second and first centuries B.C. and were collected by Pietro Bucelli before being displayed in this unusual way.
Jesse Huskey of Woodstock, one of the students involved in the archives project, said working with the ancient documents was a “was a really amazing experience. The work we were doing was very important, and with that and our professor, who is highly knowledgeable on many subjects within art history, I felt really privileged to be a part of it all.”
“This was my first study abroad experience, but I also attended an international art conference in Brussels, Belgium in February of this year,” said Huskey, a sophomore who is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in sequential art. “It’s incredibly important to live and learn abroad, especially as a young person, because it forces you to leave your comfort zone and step into a world that’s completely unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before.”
Riccardo Pizzinelli, an architect and the president of the Historical Society of Montepulciano (Società storica poliziana), was among the dignitaries who addressed the gathering. Pizzinelli led the organizing events and exhibitions for the 500th anniversary celebration of San Biagio Temple last September.
Pizzinelli praised the partnership forged between the city and KSU in preserving the records using 21stcentury technology.
“The students’ work gave us new insights into our past,” Pizzinelli said through an interpreter. “Thanks to all the students from Kennesaw State. Digitizing makes these documents available to people everywhere now.”
Ever since KSU sent its first group of students to Montepulciano in 1999, the University has partnered with a consortium of schools within the University System of Georgia to develop programs in Tuscany.
Currently, the Montepulciano Consortium is responsible for the two traditional summer study abroad programs in Montepulciano, where students from across the University System of Georgia take courses in the liberal arts and sciences as well as the fine arts.
– Robert S. Godlewski
Photography by Philip Kiernan, Ken Hill, and Chandler New
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.