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November 11, 2010 - January 31, 2011 extended until March 13, 2011
Braccio di Carlo Magno (St. Peter's Square)

1,600,000 printed volumes, 80,000 manuscripts and 100,000 archival units, 8,400 incunabula, about 300,000 coins and medals, 150 thousand prints, drawings and engravings, and over 150 thousand pictures.
These are just some of the numbers of the historic "Library of the Popes" which reopened to the public last September 20, after three years of extraordinary building work.

On the occasion of this reopening, which was long awaited by the many scholars who feel at home here (about 20,000 each year), the Vatican Library, which soon will receive a visit from Benedict XVI, is revealed to the public through an exhibition in the Braccio di Carlo Magno (Saint Peter's Square).

The exhibition, whose title may be translated as Discovering the Vatican Library: an story open to the future, was inaugurated Wednesday, November 10 and will continue until the end of January 2011 (extended until March 13, 2011). It is no doubt an occasion to give publicity to the history of a precious and boundless heritage such as the one preserved in the Vatican Library (founded in 1451); but it is primarily an opportunity to illustrate, with the help of technology, the immense cultural, religious and human value that it has for men and women of today and for future generations.

The Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, which is a partner of the Vatican Library in this communications operation, has prepared a guided, multimedia tour which allows it to offer a view even of the otherwise inaccessible "internal" areas of the Library.

Here, for example, is the extraordinary Sistine Hall of the Library, painted in the late sixteenth century and rebuilt for the exhibition, complete with splendid frescoes and furnished with reading tables where visitors may don white gloves and consult the precious manuscripts (in facsimile). It is also possible to see the "laboratories" where the Library staff do their daily work. The last room, in fact, contains a laboratory for the restoration of ancient manuscripts, precious bindings and printed books. The Library's restoration experts work in front of the visitors and can interact with them by answering questions and providing general information on methods and techniques of restoration and preservation.

The exhibition is divided into seven sections (History of the Library; Manuscripts; Printed books; Prints and Drawings; Coins and Medals; Services Offered by the Library). Among the works exhibited are some of the most important manuscripts of Western history, dating from the early Christian era to the present day; precious incunabula and rare printed volumes from all periods; drawings by the greatest artists in Western art; art prints; and an extraordinary selection of coins and medals.

The synchronized audio guides are available in five languages (Italian, English, French, Spanish, German).



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