The activities undertaken by the Laboratory are particularly intense as they do not involve exclusively the collections on display in the Museums, but also the works located in other spaces, inasmuch as they too are part of the artistic patrimony of the Holy See: typical examples are the Borgia apartment, the Rooms of Julius II painted by Raphael and, not least, the Sistine Chapel. The restoration of this latter (1979-1993) is one of the longest interventions ever carried out by restorers in the Vatican and was one of the most significant cultural events of the late twentieth century.
The Laboratory staff are constantly committed to the study, management and performance of restoration procedures (involving both moveable works on panels and major sites), in the routine maintenance of the Museum collections and in the preventative monitoring of works on temporary loan. In the case of works on loan, prior site inspections are carried out to ascertain their conditions, and condition reports are drawn up to summarise the data necessary for deciding whether or not to consent to the loan. The valuable collaboration with the Exhibitions Office also allows restorers to participate in exhibitions as “couriers”, a role that involves monitoring of both the conditions of the work before and after packing, and of the layout phases in the exhibition space.
The Laboratory devotes special attention to the recovery of gilded works and the sector of wooden supports, especially the renovation and evolution of containment systems. Maximum consideration is given to the restoration of historically decorated surfaces.
In recent years in particular, the Laboratory has undertaken technical revision of methods of analysis and intervention: the introduction of innovative techniques of biorestoration is a clear example. Indeed, the use of selected non-pathogenic micro-organisms during operations for the cleaning and maintenance of paintings has been shown to be safer and more effective than the use of traditional solvents, with enormous advantages both for those who carry out the work and for the surfaces treated.