Can Technology Save the Sistine Chapel?

The Sistine Chapel. Courtesy of Clayton Tang via Wikimedia Commons.
The Sistine Chapel. Courtesy of Clayton Tang via Wikimedia Commons.

Approximately six million tourists visit the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel every year. But as increasing numbers of people gain the means to travel, the Vatican Museums are struggling to cope with the growing crowds flocking to its cultural attractions.

In response to the influx, the Guardian reports that the director of Vatican Museums Antonio Paolucci may cap the number of visitors to the Museum. “If the [number of] visitors goes up we shall introduce a limit of 20,000 visits a day [and] 2,000 at the most at any one time,” he said. The museum will also push for overall visitor numbers not to increase in the future, according to a La Repubblica interview with the director.

John Mandyck, Vice President of Sustainability at the American air conditioning manufacturer Carrier told the Guardian “The pollutants that were being created through those visitors were clearly damaging the frescoes, so they were faced with a decision—to look at a technological solution or look at a solution that limited access to the chapel.” In order to maintain access, the Vatican Museum decided to add advanced systems to help preserve the chapel.

Carrier provided a cutting edge, intelligent air conditioning system which uses cameras to count the number of visitors in the chapel and automatically adjusts temperature and humidity levels, whilst simultaneously filtering out dust and carbon dioxide brought in by visitors.

Meanwhile, the German lighting manufacturer Osram developed a lighting system for the chapel which utilizes over 7,000 LEDs to illuminate the frescoed walls. The new, environmentally friendly LED based system not only provides improved protection for the priceless artworks, but also uses 90 percent less electricity that the system it replaces.

Both Osram and Carrier provided their systems for free.


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