By Paolo Ondarza
The current Covid-19 situation in Italy does not allow for certainties but "The intention is to reopen the Vatican Museums on 1 February.”
This is according to Vatican Museums Director, Barbara Jatta, who told Vatican Radio that it has proved necessary to extend the current closure of the Museums for an extra 15 days, after having previously set 16 January as a possible date for re-opening
Jatta explained that this is in accordance with decisions taken by the board of administrators of the Governorate of the Holy See and in line with Italian government indications.
She noted that the seven-kilometre itinerary that has been mapped out through the Vatican Museums for small numbers of visitors, in compliance with anti-Covid precautions, “does not constitute a health problem or a vehicle for infection.”
“So it would be a very nice message to be able to reopen our collections to the public,” she said.
Boom of visitors on social media
Jatta, who was one of the participants in the one-day Italian virtual conference “More Museum” on Thursday, that aimed to reflect on the future of Museums, on their re-birth after the covid crisis and new scenarios for art collections, said the use of innovative platforms and technologies were very much in the limelight.
“We have had a huge increase of visitors not only through our website but also through our social media channels such as Youtube and Instagram," she explained.
She noted that numbers increased exponentially particularly during the period of strict lockdown and she highlighted the success of an initiative undertaken in collaboration with the Dicastery of Communication which foresaw the daily publication of an Instagram post regarding a work of art belonging to the Vatican Museums’ collection.
Equally popular, she continued, were the short “Face to Face” videos that showed how the Museum continued to work despite the closure thanks to the contributions of curators, assistants in the various departments and art restorers, who shared what they were doing.
Aware of the fact that the use of social media works well for the Museums during a strict lockdown and a little less when the Museums are open, Jatta expressed her hope that the opportunities offered by social media will continue to be part of the life of the Museums.
“Thanks also to cheaper ticket options, in recent times we have had an increase in young visitors between the 18 and 30-year age group,” she said.
A hive of activity that has never stopped
Barbara Jatta reiterated that activity inside the Vatican Museums has never stopped: "On 9 March we closed our doors in line with the total national lockdown. No one, except for very few, came to work. Since 6 November, when we closed again after the initial reopening on 1 June, all the art restorers and all the personnel who keep the Museum going came to work” respecting the rules and precautions to safeguard health.
“Editorial work never stopped; all departmental research activity, restoration activity, construction sites and laboratories are up and running,” she said.
In a sense, Jatta revealed that she, like other directors of international museums, has taken the opportunity in a time in which exhibitions and events are suspended, “to focus on the collections, on the maintenance of exhibition spaces and deposits, on the catalogue, on research and publications."
Barbara Jatta concluded expressing her hope that very soon the Museums will be able to open their doors to the public, a reality that depends on decisions to be taken by the Italian government in the coming days and weeks.