Vatican Museums hope to reopen in February

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Vatican Museums are expected to reopen in February if coronavirus restrictions permit it, according to the museums’ director.

Starting on Feb. 1, visitors are likely to be able once again to see masterpieces like Caravaggio’s “The Entombment of Christ,” the ancient Roman Laocoön sculpture, and the recently restored Raphael Rooms within the Vatican walls.

The Vatican Museums have been closed since Nov. 5, when the Italian government implemented tighter coronavirus restrictions, closing all museums in Italy. A draft text of a new decree expected to be announced on Jan. 15 contains a provision to allow museums to open in some regions of Italy.

Throughout the pandemic, the Vatican Museums have followed the Italian government’s measures. During a national lockdown in the spring of 2020, the Vatican Museums were closed for a total of 12 weeks before reopening on June 1.

Vatican Museums director Barbara Jatta said that the more than four miles that make up Vatican Museums’ halls should not pose a “health problem,” given the small number of visitors projected. She said this was especially so given that there were few visitors during the summer reopening when interregional travel was allowed in Italy and much of Europe.

Jatta took part in an online conference on Jan. 14 called “More Museum: The future of museums between crisis and rebirth, changes and new scenarios.” Dario Franceschini, the Italian Minister for Cultural Heritage and Tourism, opened the conference.

Franceschini said that he was proposing that museums reopen “at least on weekdays” in regions of Italy where the spread of coronavirus is less severe.

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With the repeated museum closures, Jatta said that the Vatican Museums have seen growth in their online audience on Instagram and YouTube. The Vatican Museums’ Instagram page, @vaticanmuseums, features a different work of art each day with a description in both English and Italian.

The Vatican Museums have also released videos on YouTube highlighting the work of restorers and curators, who have continued working within the museum during the months of the most recent closure.

“We are taking the opportunity of this time in which exhibitions and events are suspended, to focus on the collections, on the maintenance of the exhibition spaces and deposits, on the catalog, on research and publications,” Jatta said in an interview with Vatican News.

Travel within Italy is expected to remain limited under the revised coronavirus restrictions on Jan. 15, which could also include stricter rules for restaurants.

The Italian Ministry of Health reports 561,380 positive cases of COVID-19 in Italy as of Jan. 14 with 77,980 cases in Lazio, the Italian region where Rome is located. The country has recorded a total of more than 2.3 million cases and 80,848 deaths related to COVID-19.

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