VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican Library, which has been closed for renovation and modernization since July 14, 2007, will be reopening Monday.
Cardinal Raffaele Farina, archivist and librarian of Holy Roman Church, made this announcement Monday in a press conference. The cardinal was accompanied by the prefect of the Vatican Library, Monsignor Cesare Pasini.
In addition to repairs, structural work was done to strengthen the library floor, which was threatened by the excessive weight of the books and documents. Security was enhanced, and the organization of the library spaces and archives was improved.
The cardinal said that in November an exhibition and congress will be held to mark the reopening.
The exhibition, titled “Knowing the Vatican Library: A History That Looks to the Future,” will open on Nov. 10 in the Charlemagne Gallery, on the left wing of the Bernini Colonnade.
The Nov. 11-13 congress in the Vatican will be dedicated to studying the library as an institution at the service of research.
Cardinal Farina explained that the work of restructuring the library was planned some ten years ago “and was carried out in several phases, let us say, as open library, and ended, although not entirely, at the beginning of this September of 2010,” according to the schedule announced three years ago.
“Over the last ten years, from 1997 onwards, projects have been carried out that in some way were a prelude to the present ones and form part of the more general project of rationalization of the spaces,” he said to journalists.
This great project, the prelate continued, was “directed to the realization of a historical-humanist library model that attempts to conserve and transmit –choosing and refining compatible modern techniques — the model of the founders of the Vatican Library, taking up the best of the integrations carried out in its five and a half centuries of history.”
He explained that, as part of this project, in 1999 the office of protocol and the archive of the prelature were established in the buildings situated under the offices of the prefecture, duly restructured and adapted.
Housed in this space are documents related to the history of the library and its funds acquired over centuries, as well as the documentation related to the administration and staff, from the year 1451 up to today.
In 2001, the two-year project to standardize the electronic loan system was completed.
Cardinal Farina pointed out that “the latter required above all an important commitment, also from the economic point of view.”
In 2002, the building of the new hall of reviews ended. This work, suspended in 1995 due to a lack of funds, was taken up again in 1998 and completed with the contribution of the State Secretariat.
There are some 1,000 newspapers that can be consulted by scholars. The new space under the consultation hall of printed matter is equipped with working tables with the possibility of using electronic equipment.
Inaugurated together with the hall of reviews was the Barberini Hall, which was reconstructed as faithfully as possible to the “great library” of Cardinal Francesco Barberini, with its wooden shelves made by carpenter-architect Giovanni Battista Soria. These shelves arrived in the Vatican Library in 1902, thanks to Father Franz Ehrle.
In 2002, the cardinal explained, a digital laboratory was made as well as an area for the multi-spectral reading of the palimpsests (manuscripts that conserve the traces of a previous writing).
The next year, the new headquarters of the Vatican school of library science was inaugurated.
These premises have very comfortable offices, two classrooms for seminars and a small library with an information technology classroom equipped with 49 computer stations. The prelate described it as a “real technological gem,” which makes it possible to give lessons in an easy and effective way, with the availability of network services, online access, and interaction between professors and students.
The restoration of frescoes in the cupola of the writers’ hall, along with that of the carved benches of the first library of Nicholas V and Sixtus IV, was completed in 2005.
In the years 2006 and 2007 the space of the new catalogue building was enlarged, so that it was possible to allocate eight new offices to writers and assistants of the manuscripts department.
The cardinal spoke about the objectives that guided the project, such as the recovery of spaces and the rationalization of existing ones, the adaptation of the structures, and preparation of the staff in the new technologies.
The restoration also sought to provide an adequate number and quality of services in keeping with the number of users.
Another objective was to simplify and facilitate communications between the different departments, offices and services. Other services, such as the Vatican Publishing House, were further developed.
Cardinal Farina affirmed the goal of eliminating deteriorated or illegal structures to improve the spaces and make them livable, especially for the staff working there.
The project coordinators sought to consolidate the foundations of buildings and structures in the storage areas.
They also aimed to standardize the electricity, air-conditioning, humidity control and fire-prevention systems.
The cardinal said that he hopes to soon standardize the electronic control of the movement of material, books and persons throughout the library by means of video surveillance.
Finally, work was done to create electronic controls on all the machines and systems, as their disrepair could risk the preservation and conservation of the cultural patrimony, the prelate said.
Benedict XVI “has followed the works closely, being assiduously interested,” explained the cardinal.
The prelate noted that the Pope hopes to visit the library when the works are completed. “We await him to receive his blessing,” added the cardinal.
For his part, the library prefect, Monsignor Pasini, highlighted the humanistic and universal spirit of the library as well as its spirit of service.
He said that “the most obvious novelty” of the restoration project “is the computerization of the access procedures and the other procedures carried out in the library.”
The priest reported that in the consultation hall, users can connect to the library’s wireless network with their computers.
The cardinal pointed out that there will be a security system throughout the library that will make it possible to follow the movement of volumes from one area to another and, should this be the case, inhibit the removal of books by unauthorized persons.
The prelate noted that the library’s Web page will offer several services, among them the possibility to search for photographic reproductions in the collections and to register for a newsletter.
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On the Net:
Library Web page: www.vaticanlibrary.va