Established in 2008, the Office is a significant novelty introduced by the most recent Regulations of the Museums Directorate. Although its functions are of a technical and scientific nature, the name chosen for the new structure clearly refers to the Vatican tradition of maintenance. Its likely precursor, the Ufficio del Mundator, was established in 1543 by Paul III Farnese with the task of undertaking the periodical dusting of the Sistine Chapel and other spaces within the Apostolic Palace (…bene mundare et tenere mundatas ac a pluriuso et aliis immundatiis etiam ex fumo luminarium…). This task was entrusted to Francesco Amadori, “l’Urbino”, a follower of Michelangelo, less than two years after the completion of the Universal Judgement. It was not, therefore, intended to repair damage already undergone by the paintings, but rather to work with a purely preventative aim.
Good maintenance practices have always existed alongside the awareness that the careful and constant care of the collection is a necessary condition for its very survival. Today, in the culture of the Vatican Museums, which receive half a million visitors every year, it would appear increasingly necessary to carry out these activities with the best possible synergy, based on tested scientific protocols and correctly trained staff.
The “model of sustainable conservation” in practice for some years requires that there be, alongside restoration procedures – by nature selective and dedicated to individual works – a robust support strategy made up of coherent, coordinated and planned practices for the ordinary and extraordinary maintenance of the entire patrimony.