By Paolo Ondarza
As Barbara Jatta had hoped for when she spoke to Vatican Radio last month — when the closure of the Vatican Museums was extended due to the Covid-19 situation in Italy — Monday 1 February allowed for an official re-opening of the Museums to the public.
Jatta, who is the Director of the Vatican Museums, had explained that the extended closure was 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 confirmed 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 had said.
Boom of visitors on social media
Jatta, who was one of the participants in the one-day Italian virtual conference “More Museum” in January, which 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 especially 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."
At the conclusion of the interview, Barbara Jatta expressed her hope that very soon the Museums will be able to open their doors to the public — a hope that has now come to fruition.
Article updated on 1 February 2021