27 October 2020

Eight months after closing: the museum at the time of the Coronavirus


Eight months have passed since the museum has been closed, and unfortunately it is still difficult to imagine a date on which the doors of the Terra Sancta Museum can reopen to the public.

After initial slowdowns, in the summer months the structural consolidation works of the future Saller wing, in the Archaeological section, at the Monastery of the Flagellation, have restarted. The works on the new wing of the museum, which will house finds from the excavations carried out by the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in the holy places (Nazareth, Bethlehem, Capernaum, Magdala, etc.), are now threatened once again by the numerous restrictions that the government has imposed to deal with the second wave of infections that began in September.

This is also the case for the works begun inside the rooms of the Monastery of St. Saviour, rooms that will house the treasure of the Custody, a heritage of incredible beauty, works of art and liturgical objects from every angle of Europe destined to honor God, right in those places where Jesus lived.

This is an immense heritage, which still needs much study and research to be understood and valued. The health emergency has been a severe blow for research, cataloguing and inventorying activities. Every year the Cultural Heritage Office of the Custody of the Holy Land hosts a large number of scholars, experts and passionate people who choose to make their skills and expertise available for the enhancement of this great heritage.

Even the exhibitions have come to a complete halt, penalizing a sector of activity that has always offered important opportunities for the museum. The circulation of the works promotes the knowledge of the collections and also represents an opportunity for concrete help thanks to the restorations that are carried out.

Eight months after the closure of the Terra Sancta Museum, it can be said that the emergency has affected what was the daily life of the museum, its accessibility and fruition of its collections, study and research activities, and restoration activities. From now until the next few months it will be fundamental to focus and reflect on what the life of the museum will be like in the near future, what its objectives will be, the tools and the policies it will have to implement to face the challenges that the coronavirus has put before it.

Some discussions are already underway: multimedia will be an essential element on which the museum will have to focus in the coming months. It is necessary to ensure that its collections, the many incredible stories that they can tell, are accessible to everyone. It is a duty to ensure the preservation and promotion of the artworks themselves, and it is also a duty for those people who have no chance of reaching the Holy Land, nor of getting to know it, due to the restrictions and difficulties caused by the emergency.

Digital will also be fundamental for the realization of other activities that the museum is called upon to carry out: those of didactics and education. The project “A Community Living Museum for Palestinians Youth” was recently launched, funded by the European Union to support the educational offer of schools in East Jerusalem. For local schools, the health emergency represents a difficult and entirely new challenge so, in this scenario, the museum can represent a valid tool to face the threats of the coronavirus: the museum can and must be considered as a support to education, even at a distance, guaranteeing a new, enriched and accessible cultural offer.


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