• 2 Feb 2018

Since its opening in 1929, the Vatican has always been directed by men. In 2017, for the first time, a woman joined the ranks of its directors. Indeed, Barbara Jatta became Director of the Vatican’s museums. What to remember from this historical change?

This picture taken by the Vatican Museums is a portrait of its Director Barbara Jetta, appointed in 2017.

Barbara Jatta © Vatican Museums

A unique character

Barbara Jatta was the only woman out of the 6 initial candidates. As a result, she was chosen by Pope Francis in January 2017. She then told the New York Times: ““it came as a shock at first, to face such a big change.” Since then, she became responsible for over 200 000 Artworks and objects of the Vatican‘s museums, the Pope’s apartment, the gardens’ sculptures as well as other sites such as the Sistine Chapel. This is a serious challenge for the appointed Director. Both firm and friendly, Barbara Jatta has always had great ambitions for her mandate. Before she was appointed, she worked for over 20 years at the Pope’s library. Her main mission is to deal with the colossal crowds coming in daily by ensuring a better distribution of the attendance within the different Vatican’s museums.

A titanic challenge

Accoding to the Vatican’s museums reports, the number of visitors broke a record in 2017 and reached over 6 million people. However, it used t be considered by Barbara Jatta’s predecessor Antonio Paolucci, as a maximum annual limit. Therefore, the new Director’s goal remains ensuring “a better distribution of tourists inside the museums.” Indeed, the most visited parts of the Vatican’s Museums are threatened by the constant flow of visitors and their breath, sweat and by the dust they bring in. New solutions have been considered such as a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel. The 200 000 Artworks and objects under Barbara Jatta’s care also have to be maintained which cost a lot of money. Therefore, in order to facilitate their preservation, the Director implemented new strategies.

This Pexels image represents the Bramante staircase at the Vatican Museum.

Bramante Staircase © Pexels

Barbara Jatta’s main accomplishments

The new Director stood out from her predecessors through a unique strategy. Indeed, rather than applying new technologies only to contain the attendance rate in the most popular sections, the idea is to dedicate it to the redistribution of visitors in the least visited parts of the museums. As a result, instead of implementing a virtual tour of the Sistice Chapel, it has been decided to create an multimedia experience in an auditorium close to the Vatican. Moreover, Barbara Jatta proposed alternative routes to visitors to encourage them to discover the unknown Vatican museums’ treasures. The reopening of the Ethnological Museum which collection includes over 80 000 Artworks and objects, mostly lent to worldwide Institutions for temporary exhibitions like the one organized by Pope Pie XI in 1925, aligns with such a strategy.

This picture taken by Aaron Logan represents Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in Italy.

Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo © Aaron Logan


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Sources: The New York Times, Vatican and la Croix