VATICAN CITY – Ever year, more than 6 million people visit the fifty-four galleries of the Vatican Museum, one of the largest museums in the world. But in 2019, the number of visitors may be dropping due to safety concerns for visitors.
Currently, there are no restrictions on how many tourists and pilgrims can come in and out of the doors of the Vatican Museums. The museums draw a large crowd, and galleries contain 70,000 works of art.
During peak season (March through October), more than 30,000 people visit the museums. But summer months bring temperatures of more than 100°F inside the museum galleries, and only the Sistine Chapel has air conditioning.
The results of these conditions include an average of ten visitors fainting on a daily basis.
Additionally, on the last Sunday of each month, the Vatican Museums wave the entrance fee for visitors. It is common for visitors that day to wait outside for hours in line.
Another safety concern is the lack of accessibility to emergency exits. Even though there are many emergency exits throughout the museum, there are only two in the mile long passageway that houses the Sistine Chapel.
Barbara Jatta is an Italian art historian who Pope Francis appointed as director of the museums in late 2016. She told the Guardian: “Together with the Vatican governorate, we are strongly working towards fixing the right number from 2019.”
Since last month, construction has started to expanded air condition to cover the Raphael Rooms and the Borgia Apartments. Jatta also plans to oversee construction of a second entrance.
The Vatican Museums employ 640 people who work in 40 different departments. This year, twenty new custodians were hired which allowed the museums to open previously closed off galleries for visitor viewing.
Antonio Paolucci, who previously served as director of the Vatican Museums, advised a cap on visitors after visitors reached 6 million a year. Many major Roman sites, like the Colosseum, already limit the number of daily visitors allowed on the premises.