Through its Exhibitions Service, the Vatican Library allows its collections of manuscripts, printed books, prints, coins and medals to be used for cultural
projects which intend to promote the diffusion of knowledge. Ecclesiastical property belongs specifically to the Christian community; however, due to the universal nature of the Christian message, one can say that it
also belongs to all of humanity. To promote wider knowledge of its inestimable treasures of wisdom and beauty, the Library grants a limited number of loans from its collections to the world's major museums
for temporary exhibition. Such loans are granted only for projects which have a scientific purpose, or for major exhibitions of a cultural or religious nature. Human culture, or rather human cultures constitute an
open field for evangelization, and form a context in which the Library gladly makes its voice heard to the men and women of our time.
The Prefect of the Library, supported by the relevant Committee and in accordance with the Regulations which have been approved by the Secretariat of State, makes a careful choice among the many requests for loans which are received every year. He also takes into account the fact that the main tasks of the Library are to preserve and transmit to posterity its precious collections, and to make them available in the Library itself for scholars from around the world to consult and study.
Here are some of the more important exhibitions in which the Vatican Library has participated in 2010.
The exhibition Luxury and Daily Life in Byzantium was held in Bonn from 26 Febr. to 12 June 2010. It presented a summary of the "Byzantine Millenium", from the foundation of Constantinople by Constantine the Great in 324 down to the Ottoman conquest in 1453, paying special attention to the golden era of the reign of Justinian (527-565) and to the period preceding the Sack of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204. The exhibition included great works of art illustrating the history, the archeology and the art of the Byzantine Empire. The Vatican Library participated with two volumes (Vat.gr.676; Barb.gr.372) and a facsimile (Vat.gr.1613).
The Library also participated in the exhibition "Illumination: Hebrew Treasures from the Vatican and Major British Collections", organized on occasion of the reopening of the Jewish Museum in London. The event, which took place in an atmosphere of peace, respect and openness, has been a valuable opportunity do deepen and intensify dialogue and has laid solid foundations for future collaboration. Three important Hebrew manuscripts were loaned for this exhibition (Ross. 498; Neofiti 1; Vat. ebr. 66), emphasizing how the production of Hebrew texts from the twelfth to the fifteenth century was the result of harmonious coexistence and of a mutual exchange which shaped the intellectual future of Europe.
Another important exhibition is "The Swabians and Italy" (Mannheim, 18 Sept. 2010 - 20 Febr. 2011), organized in collaboration with the Archeological Museum of Palermo. It concerns three regions which were central to Swabian power, namely the area of Germany at the confluence of Rhine and Neckar; Sicily; and Lombardy. Works of art from these three regions have been displayed in an exhibition surface of 2,000 square meters to evoke the art and the culture of the Swabian period in its medieval beginnings, and the connections between Italy and Germany.
The Exhibitions Service deals with all the steps involved in the process of planning, organizing and administering loans of works belonging to the Vatican Library. The Regulations which are currently in force require the borrower to send a request, including a description of the exhibition project, to the Secretariat of State (His Eminence Card. Tarcisio Bertone) and to the Prefect of the Library (Msgr. Cesare Pasini) at least 12 months before the inauguration of the exhibit. The total length of the loan may not exceed 4 months. The Exhibitions Committee, presided by the Prefect and made up of the heads of the relevant offices, meets four times each year to evaluate and approve the received requests. It gives special consideration to projects whose themes coincide with the interests of the Library, which has a long tradition of promoting cultural events of great artistic or religious value.
The Library participates in no more than 12 projects each year, and only loans a very limited number of objects for each one. In addition, a period of three years must pass before a given object may be loaned again. In addition to these criteria, the Library always reserves the right to refuse a request due to the exceptional age, rarity, value or frailty of an object, or to preserve it from the risks and strains involved in repeated transportation and exposition. The Regulations for Exhibition Loans clearly explain the terms and requirements under which the Vatican Library loans its objects; it should be read carefully by the borrower, signed, dated and stamped by the person responsible for the institution which is to host the exhibition, and returned to the Vatican Library. The management of loans requires a series of procedures and operations which follow a precise timeline; and all the required documents must be prepared in advance (description of the object, photographs, loan contract, insurance policy). All data regarding the subjects and the initiatives for the year are entered into a computer program which allows the Library to constantly monitor the activities of the Exhibitions Service, together with the progress and the deadlines of the procedures. These data are interfaced with those which concern each single work on loan, so that all the elements which are needed to reconstruct the history of the works, of their restorations and of their movements are always available.
The Exhibitions Service works in close collaboration with the curators of each exhibition, with the goal of coordinating the many operative aspects and the preparation of the necessary procedures and documents.
Special attention is paid to security measures and to the environmental conditions required to guarantee the safeguard of the objects on loan. The organizers of the exhibition must take out a
special insurance policy known as "nail to nail", with the Library as beneficiary, against "all risks", and is responsible for any damage done to the works during their absence from the Library.
The Exhibitions Service also aims to ensure that all necessary precautions are taken at both ends during the operations of delivery, packing, unpacking, inspection and setup of the exhibit, in order to maintain the state of conservation of the works even as they pass through "critical" environments, different from their normal conservation environment, during transport and during the time they spend in the host institution. In order to guarantee the application of all the conditions stipulated in the Regulations for Exhibition Loans, loaned works are always accompanied by a courier who is a staff member of the Library and who assists in unpacking, verifies the state of conservation of the works on loan and ensures that they are displayed in an appropriate manner in the host institution.