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.
This year the Museum of the Bible in Washington, in continuing the collaboration with the Vatican Library since the exhibition on the Bible in 2018, gave space to the artistic work of master Parisi, a talented young Roman artist. The exhibition was entirely dedicated to the works he made on the occasion of the reopening of the Salone Sistino to scholars. In total, 26 prints and 29 matrices were lent, reproducing the inventors of the letters which were inspired, in Parisi’s reinterpretation, by the characters represented on the pillars of the Salone Sistino.
The Government of the People's Republic of China invited the Holy See to participate with its own pavilion at the Horticulture Expo, held in Beijing from April to October 2019. The main theme of the Expo was Live green. Live better. The Holy See Pavilion developed its own exhibition space around the sub-theme Home of Hearts, with the aim of promoting the messages expressed by the Holy Father in the Encyclical Letter of Laudato si. The Vatican Library participated in this significant event, with facsimiles of two works, Chig.F.VII.158 and Chig.F.VII.15, later donated to the organizing Institution.
The Vatican Library, as evidence of the deep professional bond between the two Institutions, participated, with the loan of Ross.498, in the exhibition organized by the Israel Museum in Jerusalem entitled Maimonides: a legacy in script. The scientific project had as its primary purpose that of bringing together and exhibiting, on a unique occasion, a complete presentation of the most precious medieval Maimonides illuminated manuscripts.
In the Capitoline Museums, in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, the exhibition entitled I Papi dei Concili nell’Era Moderna. Arte, Storia, Religiosità e Cultura [The Popes of the Councils in the Modern Age. Art, History, Religiousness and Culture] was held in collaboration with the European Center for Tourism Art and Entertainment. The participation of the Vatican in this event was of great value: the history of the Library is marked by the figures of popes who have supported and enhanced it, but also by the epochal passages that coincided with the celebrations of the Councils; it is possible to retrace its institutional parable also bearing in mind the events of the Councils, both for the contribution it has made to these central moments in the life of the Church, and for what the decisions elaborated by the assemblies of bishops have entailed for the path of the book collection and its cultural choices. The Library participated in this exhibition, lending the facsimile of the Vatican Council II Bull of Induction.
The deep historical-cultural link with the Vatican Museums continues, as evidenced also by the Library's participation with the loan of works belonging to its collections. At the conclusion of the many initiatives aimed at celebrating the figure of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, on the occasion of the centenary celebrations commemorating his birth, 1717, and his death, 1768, the Vatican Museums decided to commemorate the figure of this great Prussian with an exhibition highlighting the pivotal role that the Vatican collections have played in the studies, theories and writings of the famous archaeologist. A "diffused" exhibition was organized, which unfolded through collections of antiquities - Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek and Roman - including those universal works of Renaissance and Baroque art, which were also the inspiration for the construction of the aesthetic theories of Winckelmann, still considered the father of modern archaeology and the founder of history of art understood as a science. The Library participated in the exhibition with the loan of four works and some of his most important writings, all of which help to better understand the atmosphere and cultural climate that characterized the city of Rome around the mid-eighteenth century.
The Scuderie del Quirinale organized two important exhibitions in 2019, one dedicated to Ovid and the other to Leonardo. The Vatican Library participated in both with the loan of significant codices, thereby confirming the climate of collaboration with this important institution. In particular, the project for Leonardo's exhibition formed part of a program of initiatives aimed at celebrating the 500th anniversary of the death of the scientist. Leonardo's fundamental legacy is examined in a perspective that links his work as an engineer and humanist with the history of science, art and technology. In this context, the works lent by the Vatican Library, such as the Sangallo, Barb.lat.4424 and Francesco di Giorgio, Urb.lat.1757 projects , as well as the ideal plan of Milan, Urb.lat.277, were of great importance.
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.