Illuminating the Gregorian Profane and Pius Christian Museums

Veduta del Museo Pio Cristiano; Musei Vaticani


The Gregorian Profane and Pius Christian Museums are galleries to discover, explore, and le- arn about the creativity and history of the ancients. These museums contain collections of the antiquities formerly housed in the Lateran Museum and Palace until 1963 and exhibit objects from excavations conducted both in and outside of the Papal State including: sculptures, mosaics, architectural fragments, inscriptions, historical portraits, reliefs, urns, funerary monuments, sarcophagi, and cult statues. These artifacts, enjoyed by thousands of visitors every week, are displayed in two defined spaces realized by architect Tullio Passarelli. In this year’s Wishbook, we present you with an important request for new illumination in these galleries to shed new light on some of the world’s most ancient treasures. Light is arguably the single greatest cause of deterioration in art collections. Several causes contribute to its damaging effects: the materials of which objects are made, the type and intensity of light they are exposed to, and the duration of the exposure. Such corruption is cumulative over the life of an object and often irreversible. Similarly, natural light is harmful to art collections as well.

Schermata 2015-10-01 alle 08.33.30It has a high light output and contains very high concentrations of ultraviolet rays which damage artifacts. Harnessing the benefits of current science and technology, we are slowly modernizing the Vatican Museums for the primary purpose of better protecting our collection and the secondary, practical benefit of ensuring that our visitors are afforded a properly lit viewing of our collection. Contemporary museum illumination design incorporates these two main goals in its purpose: it provides the best protection and preservation of the art objects and works to enhance the museum visitor’s viewing experience. Light plays a significant role in the interaction between the observer and the museum artifacts. It is essential for the synergy, as it creates a unique atmosphere for an evocative museum experience. Lighting design must encompass the dynamics of daylight and use light properly to facilitate an interactive and comfortable museum experience for the visitor. While daylight adds to the overall ambiance of the space, this light can cause glares and shadows making it difficult for the viewer to read the work. A new illumination scheme would not only prevent damaging  effects, but also would allow visitors to view the pieces as intended.
Due to the electrical systems in the Vatican Museums, we propose the lighting of these two galleries together as the modernization must be performed simultaneously.

The proposed project takes into consideration the following aspects:

– Minimum adjustment to the current electrical system
– Minimum interference on structures
– Removable and mountable apparatuses
– Easy and inexpensive installation of the technical scenes, without moving the exposed elements.
– “Sustainability” of the intervention through the use/ using of LED lighting (Elcom technology), low energy consumption, recyclability of technical scenes’ materials, excellent quality/price ratio
– Minimal and easy maintenance of technical scenes and LED illuminators
– Security of the equipment used in relation to the space opened to the public