Meet the first woman in history to run the Vatican museums

By Elise Harris

On Tuesday it was announced that Barbara Jatta, a wife and mother of three children, will be the new director of the Vatican Museums – a position that until now has belonged only to men.

Jatta, who has served as Vice-director of the museums since June 2015, was a natural choice to succeed the outgoing Director of the museums, Antonio Paolucci, who has guided them since 2007.

Set to take the reins Jan. 1, 2017, Jatta was born in Rome Oct. 6, 1962, and has a track record of dozens of scientific publications and internships in different countries around the world, including Portugal, England and the United States.

She graduated with a degree in Literature from Rome’s “Sapienza” University in 1986, and a year later got her Archivist Diploma from the Vatican School of Paleography, Diplomacy and Archives.

In 1991 she became a specialist in Art History at the Postgraduate School of the University of Rome. Afterward, she went on to give lectures on the History of Graphics and Engraving Techniques, while publishing articles, reviews and specialized exhibition catalogs along the way.

Jatta also collaborated with Italy’s National Institute for Graphics, first as a restorer and then by cataloging the funds of drawings, engravings, xylographs and lithographs.

Since 1994, she has been Representative Lecturer for teaching “History of Graphic Arts” at the University of Naples and the Suor Orsola Benincasa Institute, as part of the Degree Course in Humanities, addressed in Conversation of Cultural Heritage.

In the mid-90s Jatta began her collaboration with the Vatican, first as a restorer of graphic material, with her responsibilities continuing to increase.

She began working in the Vatican Library in 1996 and was later named Head of the Cabinet of Prints, a position she held until her appointment in 2010 as Curator of Graphics in the Department of Prints by Benedict XVI.

In 2009, as a member of the Vatican Library, she coordinated an exhibit in the Vatican’s Braccio di Carlo Magno museum, located under the lefthand colonnade in St. Peter’s Square, entirely dedicated to the anniversary of the Governorate of the Vatican City State with the Lateran Treaty as the focal point.

Last June she was named as Vice-director of the museums, and will now take over as director of the entity that pays the majority of the Vatican’s bills with an income of roughly 100 million euros a year, earned from the presence of at least 7 million visitors annually.

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