The Museo della Mezzadria Senese (Sharecropping Museum) of Buonconvento is located in the evocative setting of a 17th-century granary. Its authentic exhibits do more than simply document the past; they pull visitors inside the rural world of agriculture that characterized the society and countryside of Tuscan until as recently as the 1970s.
The museum recreates slices of the life and work of the contadini, the peasant farmers, and it illustrates the working mechanisms of the mezzadria (sharecropping) system: landowners laid out capital and use of the property, and farmworkers in return gave their own labour and that of their families—along with half of the crops and produce.
The museum—displaying period photographs, original objects, literary quotations, music, films, and archival documents—leads visitors through a series of multimedia stations where numerous speaking figures introduce themselves and describe their roles in farm life: the proprietario (landowner), the fattore(foreman), the capoccia (head of the household), the massaia (farm wife).
Exhibits cover the building’s two storeys. The first floor is dedicated to the agrarian countryside, to the farmland and to threshing, which marked the end of the yearly agricultural cycle. It goes on to show the grain mill and the various activities of the country village. The second floor explores aspects of work in the field and the farm buildings, and focuses especially on the life of sharecropping families, recreating the interior of a farmhouse along with the furnishings and utensils that were typical of the contadina tradition.
Rather than present information through lengthy written panels, the displays provide visitors with an immediate experience of various environments thanks to the presence of narrating voices that explain the contents of each room.
Beyond exhibition areas, the museum also includes spaces for different activities. There are teaching laboratories, for example, to help children sample a lifestyle that for many years was part of local and national culture. The museum thus serves as a “translator” and intermediary to hand on memories from past generations.