The Rector’s Palace is the heart of the University of Siena. Inside is the museum that brings together works of art, objects and documents representing the historical memory of the University. From the Middle Ages to 1808, the University’s activities took place, essentially without interruption, in the ancient Casa della Sapienza (House of Knowledge) and in the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. In 1808, by order of the French government, study was surpressed in Siena, and it would not be fully restored again until the Restoration. It was on this occasion in 1816 that the University moved to its current location, which had formerly been the Jesuit College of San Vigilio.
Originally the palazzo only had a single entrance, on the side next to the Church of San Vigilio; in 1892 the architect Giuseppe Partini created a new entrance on Via Banchi di Sotto, giving the courtyard its current appearance. Crossing the threshold today, visitors have the opportunity to embark on a journey through the history of the University from the Middle Ages to the present day, thanks to a series of items exhibited in special display cases or kept in the Historical Archives, which offer a chronologically organized exhibition spread out over six rooms.
The Historical Archive contains the documentation produced and acquired by the University from 1560 to 1955, enabling visitors to understand the development of the University over the centuries and to reconstruct the biographies of the leading figures who taught or studied there. The archive is part of a “historical path” consisting of a series of objects and documents that mark the main episodes in the life of the University.
The Museum System of the University of Siena (Sistema Museale dell’Università di Siena—SIMUS) is the tangible result of centuries of study and research carried out in and around Siena. The System constitutes a summa on the evolution of thought, scientific or otherwise, through collections of tools, finds, educational models, memorabilia and archival documents. Thanks to the passionate commitment of researchers and university staff, museum resources of this sort continue in the present day to provide an effective educational tool to be used in teaching and disseminating knowledge.