St. Olaf College | News

Student lands internship at renowned Italian art museum

While studying in Florence, Italy, this year, St. Olaf College junior Madeleine Senko landed an internship at the renowned Uffizi Gallery.

Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is world-famous. For Madeleine Senko ’14, it has become an old friend.

While studying abroad in Florence, Italy, this year, Senko landed an internship at one of the world’s most renowned museums: the Uffizi Gallery.

Senko, a studio art major, was studying in Florence through the Associated Colleges of the Midwest’s Arts, Humanities, and Culture semester when the program director, Jodie Mariotti, encouraged her to apply for an internship in the Uffizi’s exhibition loan office.

“Jodie arranged for us to pay a visit to Antonio Natali, the director of the Uffizi gallery,” Senko says. “I was rather starstruck and extremely nervous, but was able to prove my chops.”

Balancing coursework with time at the museum became an art form in and of itself. At the office, Senko was responsible for processing loan requests from other institutions around the globe and then seeing that, once there, the Uffizi’s art was being properly cared for. Once she even was asked to serve as a translator for a British patron who was hoping to have a piece of art authenticated by the Uffizi Gallery.

Senko’s language skills were vital to the position. After a month of intensive language courses at the Linguaviva Institute, Senko spent the remainder of her semester outside of classes in the Uffizi’s offices conducting business primarily in Italian. She had studied Italian in high school, and took advanced language coursework at Linguaviva in preparation. (This fall, St. Olaf College students interested in learning Italian will be able to take advantage of the new Alternative Language Study Option program.)

From the very first day on the job, Senko became privy to the inner workings of the museum. “I was able to witness several pieces of art packed up to be mailed across the globe to an exhibit,” she says. “I have been interested in the inner workings of museums for many years, and I find the behind-the-scenes work and preparation every bit as interesting as the art and artifacts on display.”

This knowledge of museum inner-workings will aide Senko this summer, when she will most likely return to her position as guest facilitator at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, a position she also held last summer.

Still, it is the arts and artifacts on display that Senko treasures working with most, be it Botticelli masterpieces or scientific academic manuscripts.

“My knowledge about art has expanded exponentially,” she says. “It’s amazing to flip through art history textbooks and see photos of works I have seen in person or walked past a dozen times. Every day I was surrounded by beautiful and important art, and it never ceased to awe me.”