The Department of Historical Collections was established in September 2013, to implement the Rescriptum ex Audientia of His Holiness Pope Francis, by which he closed the Lateran Historic Museum. Its last curator was Msgr. Pietro Amato, who oversaw the restitution of those spaces to the Vicariate of Rome.
Today the Department of Historical Collections includes the Carriage Pavilion, the Gallery of Portraits of the Pontiffs, the Armoury of Urban VIII and the Armoury of the Gendarmerie, part of the furnishings of the three Sacred Apostolic Palaces, as well as a rich collection of gifts, memorabilia, costumes and apparatus of the now former Papal Court.
A series of historical testimonies of pontifical mobility are preserved in the Carriage Pavilion, commissioned by Pope Paul VI in 1973 but totally renovated since 2013. The collection includes ceremonial or "protocol" carriages and two historic travel berlins, linked to the Roman Republic and the taking of Rome in 1870. In addition to trappings and harnesses for the horses, sedan chairs and court costumes, the collection also comprises ten Popemobiles, including Pope Francis’ Renault 4.
The Gallery of Portraits of the Pontiffs was established in 2015 in the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, as part of Pope Francis’ decision to open up the villas and summer residence to the public. Here visitors can immerse themselves in the history of the papacies of the last five hundred years, given that the display begins with Julius II della Rovere and concludes with Pope Francis, and admire some of the apparatus of papal ceremonies such as a flabellum, faldstool, a series of historic uniforms of the now dissolved Pontifical Armed Corps, as well as the liturgical vestments of Pope Paul V Borghese.
The Armoury of Urban VIII, on the other hand, has been housed since 2018 in the Old Hall of the Swiss Guard in the Apartment of Julius II, after it had been on display for almost a century in the Room of the Pontiffs of the Borgia Apartment, in a historic setting laid out by Ludovico Seitz. Already organised by Pope Barberini as an armoury of sixteenth-century relics in the rooms now used as the Cabinet of Prints of the Vatican Apostolic Library, it includes the splendid armour traditionally belonging to Julius II, the tournament armour of the Constable Charles of Bourbon, as well as a series of weapons that had an important function during the Sack of Rome in 1527.
The Historical Armoury of the Gendarmerie was created from 2013 in the barracks of the “Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State", established by Law no. CCCLXXIV of 2002 to replace the Pontifical Gendarmerie, dissolved by Paul VI in 1970. As the sole and direct descendant of all the armed corps that until 20 September 1870 constituted the Army of the State of the Church, the Historical Armoury of the Gendarmerie was made up of both heavy weapons, such as six and eighteenth century bombards and cannons, and a selection of "modern" weapons, such as the Remington muskets donated to Pope Pius IX in 1870.
Since 2013, the Department of Historical Collections has been curated by Sandro Barbagallo, who, in addition to having already greatly enhanced this heritage, continues to protect and study what is still preserved in its deposits.