According to the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, has introduced plans to “dust, clean and chill” visitors as they enter the Museum’s hallowed galleries.
Paolucci announced that a shoe-cleaning carpet will be installed along the hundred metres leading to the entrance of the Museum. Along both sides of the walkway, suction vents will draw dust from clothing and lower the temperature, to remove body heat and humidity. “Dust, heat, humidity and carbon dioxide,” explains Paolucci, “are the mortal enemies of paintings.”
Back in September, the Corriere della Sera caused quite a ruckus with an article by leading Italian arts and literary critic Pietro Citati, who called the conditions in the Sistine Chapel “an unimaginable disaster.” Citati called the tourists who flock to see the Sistine Chapel “unruly,” a “drunken herd” who take forbidden photos and speak loudly, despite the guards’ reprimands. These “monstrous conditions,” he asserted, are unacceptable.
Citati expounded (note the interesting translation from the original Italian):
“The great hall was filled with many hundreds of people: heavy jackets, coats, hats, balaclavas, raincoats, umbrellas. Breaths heavy visitors formed halos, vapors and mists that hung up there at the top, the Last Judgment, the Creation of Adam and the Sibyls. I believe that in a short time it will be necessary to restore the Sistine Chapel again, and so, without end, gradually the heavy human breath will fill the vast ceiling of the chapel. Meanwhile, every ten minutes a loud voice called for silence. Both the thick vapor and entries made it impossible for any form of contemplation.”
Professor Marco Nocca, who teaches at the Art Academy in Rome, agreed that there must be an effort to limit the damage caused by so many visitors. Professor Nocca recommended that if the Vatican can’t limit the number of tourists, they should at least time the visits to permit only a limited number of people in the Sistine Chapel at one time.
Mr. Paolucci, since assuming responsibility for the Museums in December 2007, has done much to advance the preservation of the art, and at the same time to make it more accessible to the faithful. He has created new visitor routes through the Museum’s complex hallways—including new handicapped accessible routes. Paolucci has established a conservatorship to ensure that the Vatican Museum’s vast artistic heritage is preserved and restored. He added Friday evening hours during the summer and fall, posted captions beside the works of art, and expanded the range of languages for the Vatican’s audio guides and publications—adding Korean and Chinese to the languages for tours and publications.
Paolucci has improved communication with the Museum’s curators and restorers—sending restorers to attend major international conferences, welcoming interns, and working to make the museums as “permeable and transparent” as possible. At his initiation, the Vatican has begun offering seminars for art history teachers.
And now, the indomitable Director Paolucci will clean the museums by first cleaning the people. The new system is expected to be in place and operational by the end of 2013.