Dear friends and readers,
We are awaiting in the near future a delegation of seagulls with a predictable grievance which will not be easy to address... This is easily explained: a dozen or so of these creatures had established a permanent morning roost on the jib of the crane which was being used for the current building works (they did abandon it, however, whenever the crane began to move...). Since the building works are steadily nearing their conclusion and the crane has finally been completely dismantled, the seagulls have been deprived of their privileged observation post. We hope to be able to find an appropriate alternative building site in the area, with an equally attractive crane, and to suggest that they might move there...
I fear that even the most devoted animal lovers among my readers will actually be more interested in the fact that the building works are now mostly in their final stages: only one construction site will remain for a few months of the new year, namely the one at the Library entrance. They would probably also like to know the date of the reopening of the Vatican Library to readers. I am now in a position to satisfy this wish: the long-awaited day will be Monday, September 20, 2010. We had promised to open in the autumn of 2010, and we will in fact reach the finishing line just as summer is ending!
I am sure that you who read this will breathe a sigh of relief. Less so we who, with the diligent collaboration of the entire staff, are preparing to return to the normal state of affairs and are sparing no effort in plodding ahead to reach the “big day” well-prepared. Regarding the changes which you will find when you return to the library, some of which I have already mentioned in the past, I hope to say more in a future newsletter. For now my duty, as we prepare to move beyond the inconveniences of the last months, is to reconfirm our constant desire to welcome you and to offer you that tranquil environment and that spirit of research which facilitates your studies and allows us together to devote our energy to the service of culture. It may seem like mere rhetoric if I say that “we have missed you” during the last months and years; but I can assure you that each of us in his own sector finds it strange — and, in the end, unbearable —to work in a library without the possibility of accomplishing a library’s main task. So, if we may imagine that you are glad to hear that we are reopening the Library after the planned period of three years, we are also grateful to you because we expect you to return in large numbers and with commitment and no doubt also enthusiasm for pursuing your studies.
For this very reason I am happy to respond, with a perhaps somewhat provocative answer, to a question which I have been asked a number of times regarding what we will do for the reopening of the Library on the morning of September 20, 2010. The answer is very simple: we will do nothing! We will open... with some excitement and trepidation, to be sure; but simply by returning to our “places of service” at the entrance, in the Admissions Office, in the Reading Rooms... There will be moments for “solemnizing” the reopening. I have already mentioned several times the conference which will be held November 11 to 13, 2010, and which will examine the Vatican Library as a place of research and as an institution at the service of scholarship. I would now like to mention that, for those who participate in the conference, and also for others who may be interested, we intend to prepare an exhibition which will be presented in the exhibition area of the Braccio di Carlo Magno (St. Peter’s Square), starting the day before the beginning of the conference and lasting until the end of January 2011. With this initiative, we wish to further the public’s acquaintance with our institution, its history and especially its activities. The title and the subtitle of the exhibition are intended to express this: “Conoscere la Vaticana. La Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana: una storia aperta al futuro“ (“Knowing the Vatican Library. The Vatican Apostolic Library: a history open to the future”). I wish to add also that the Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Vatican will issue a series of postage stamps dedicated to the Library. I leave other initiatives and surprises for subsequent newsletters...
For now, I would like to shift our gaze from the future to the past several months (it has indeed been seven months since the last newsletter, dated May 8), to record some events in the life of the Library. First of all, our participation in the 75th World Congress of the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions), held in Milan last August 23 to 27 and mentioned already in the previous newsletter. Two moments involved us in a more direct way. The first, during the Congress, was the session dedicated to “religious libraries” which was held at the Ambrosian Library. It featured presentations by representatives of all three Religions of the Book: Judaism (Malachi Beit-Arié), Christianity (Cesare Pasini) and Islam (Gabriele Mandel Khàn). This was the first time, in an IFLA Congress, that such an approach was attempted; but it is expected that a similar initiative will be repeated in the following editions of the Congress, perhaps with the participation and dialogue of other religions as well. In the days following the conference, and then in the “satellite” conference organized at the ICPAL (Istituto centrale per il restauro e la conservazione del patrimonio archivistico e librario) in Rome from August 31 to September 2, and dedicated to the conservation of documentary holdings of libraries, the Vatican Library was represented during the first morning session with presentations about the activities of our Conservation Laboratory (by Angela Nuñez Gaitán e Marta Grimaccia) and of our Photographic Laboratory (Irmgard Schuler). This was the occasion for a fruitful exchange with other institutions in various locations which were represented at the conference, as if to remind us that one’s experience and knowledge are always furthered and stimulated by those of others, in those exchanges and collaborations which are the concrete signs of the shared universality of culture.
A specific occasion for realizing such collaboration in a singularly prestigious setting was offered to us, in the last months, when the Vatican Library became a member of the VIAF (Virtual International Authority File), an institution which has been entrusted with the task of creating an authority file for universal use, joining together the languages and scripts of the world’s different peoples. The Vatican Library now shares, within this institution, together with the Library of Congress, the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and the On-line Computer Library Center (OCLC), all the practical and symbolic beauty of this initiative. We are proud to be involved in this initiative and, even more, encouraged by the unity and collaboration between peoples and cultures which it expresses.
Another moment of international exchange and cooperation was our participation in the twenty-third meeting of the CENL (Conference of European National Librarians), of which the Vatican Library is a charter member. This year’s meeting was held in Madrid, from September 23 to 25, and was dedicated particularly to topics relating to “digital libraries” and to new technologies which foster an ever greater diffusion of literature and research.
I now move on to a pleasant piece of “family news”, recording the honorary Doctorate conferred by the Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, on October 16, upon Cardinal Raffaele Farina, our Librarian. The celebration of this event was an occasion for speakers to note with gratitude not only his historiographical and methodological competence, but also his human qualities. We could not help noting that this was already well known to us and that many of us had already gathered ample and well-documented proof of his human qualities, making us the more willing to share the joy of the honorand, who bid us farewell with a smile and the words “Vi voglio bene”.
I close this report about the events of the last months by mentioning the refurbishment of our website. This needs to be done in almost every newsletter, since websites never stay still... and we are very happy to update and improve ours. Apart from general work on the graphic appearance and many minor corrections, I would like to point out that the catalogue of our publications has now been organized in a more natural way for searching and ordering volumes; and that it is now possible to place on-line orders for photographic reproductions. This last is a service which I believe will be very welcome to our users, will make such orders easier to place and will reduce the time needed for them to be filled. As of today, moreover, the site includes also a page dedicated to the reopening, which in the coming months will include information about the steps being taken to that end.
I should like to close with some thanks and some announcements. Thanks are due to very many people, beginning with those who have allowed the building works to proceed quickly and especially those who, in these last few years, whether Library staff, technicians or outside contractors, have done and continue to do their everyday work with diligence. I also wish to record the names of several benefactors to whom the Apostolic Library, and all of us, are particularly grateful.
To begin with the building works, warm thanks are due to the company Italcementi and to its executives for the generous donation which has allowed us to construct, among other things, the new elevator in the Library Courtyard. Regarding the internal activities of the Library, some assistance has been offered for the restoration of manuscripts: we are thankful, for this, to H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf, who, through the Stiftelsen Konung Gustaf VI Adolfs fond för svensk kultur, has financed the restoration of the manuscript Vat. gr. 1522, a luxurious Evangeliary of the tenth century which requires, among other things, a delicate and still experimental procedure of pigment fixation. We also owe thanks to the Stiftelsen Marcus och Amalia Wallenbergs Minnesfond, which has donated a considerable sum for the restoration of many manuscripts and printed books, in particular those which once belonged to Queen Christina of Sweden. Also from Sweden, namely from the Rev. Åke Bonnier, Dean of the Church of Sweden, in a spirit of authentic love for culture and of pure ecumenism, we have received a donation to allow us to begin the computerized cataloguing of our incunabula in the year 2010. I may also mention here the former ambassador of Sweden to the Holy See, Fredrik Vahlquist, a true friend of our institution, who played an important role in establishing the contacts and meetings which led to these generous donations.
Further messages of gratitude have now been included in a dedicated page of our website. This page also invites visitors to join in helping the Library by sending free contributions, large or small, for the acquisition of collections of manuscripts, books, prints, coins and medals, or of individual volumes; for the realization of specific cataloguing projects; for the ordinary maintenance of our collections; or for still other initiatives. The Vatican Library is proud to continue to offer its services completely free of charge, as a sign of the value that it sees in culture. The donations it receives confirm that many people share this spirit and wish to contribute to it.
The number of recipients of this newsletter has grown to 12,715. This is because, for the current issue, which includes the announcement of the reopening date, we have decided to extend the list of recipients to include many people who have more or less close ties to the Library and who we thought might be interested in this announcement and ready to share our joy in the reopening and our passion for the cultural mission of the Vatican Library. Any recipients who, due to an error of ours, have received more than one copy of the newsletter, or who no longer wish to receive it, are kindly requested to advise us of this. Those who wish to be added to the mailing list may register on our website, where they can indicate this wish. Suggeriamo a chi vuol garantirsi l’invio periodico della newsletter di iscriversi al nostro sito e di darcene segnalazione.I close, dear readers and friends,