The establishment of a restoration laboratory devoted to the conservation of works in metal or ceramic, of archaeological origin, dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century, following the reorganisation of the Vatican Museums on a technical-scientific basis; indeed, until that time, the “Pope’s Museums” depended upon the collaboration of external artists and restorers. However, in 1910 the structure began to build a stable staff and internal laboratory, at the time known as the “Cabinet of scientific applications for metals and terracotta”.
Although in the first half of the 1920s its activity was concentrated mainly on the new layout of the Gregorian Etruscan Museum (inaugurated in 1925), over the years it extended to the Egyptian Museum and progressively to all the other Vatican Collections made up of metal, ceramic, glass and ivory materials, eventually including the more general sector of the so-called decorative arts.
Between 1980 and 1981, the Laboratory was strengthened with the addition of new spaces and equipment, and assumed its current name. However, the turning point in organisational and professional terms was in 1999 when the collections of the Vatican Apostolic Library – made up of items of the most varied materials and ages (enamels, gold, amber and ivory) – came into the sphere of competence of the Vatican Museums, necessitating a broadening of the roles, skills and activities of the Laboratory.
The Laboratory is currently coordinated and directed by Flavia Callori di Vignale, with the collaboration of eight professionals and numerous collaborators from higher specialist schools and institutes, such as the Higher Central Institute for Restoration and the Workshop of Semi-Precious Stones in Florence.