For many tourists a visit to the Vatican City means exploring the Vatican Museums, one of the world’s great art collections. Quite apart from the famous Sistine Chapel and the Borgia apartments, the Museums house an enormous collection of traditional and modern religious art, classical artefacts, and much more. And now you can access a free app, Patrum, that allows you to look “behind the scenes” at the collection.
What Does Patrum Do?
Patrum is a new concept in museum-related apps. It has two aims: to give an “insider view of the Vatican Museums”, and to facilitate crowd funding of the collections. What it actually does is to publish short articles, enable chat between participants and provide a portal for cash donations.
The social media aspect works by allowing you to add comments to posts or to add them to your “interests” list (a bit like favoriting in Twitter), and there is a facility for chatting with other users or even with the Museum’s curators. Because the app is very new (launched in August of this year) there hasn’t been enough activity yet to see how this will work in practice, but it is hoped that in the long term it will create an interactive community of art enthusiasts.
The news service is currently better developed. It supplies bite sized articles including news about the Museums and the Vatican City, discussions about art and individual artworks, and profiles of individuals connected with the Museums. Many of these articles are in the style of opinion pieces, on subjects as diverse as the artistic portrayal of Judas Iscariot, or whether copies of artworks are as good as the real thing. As a travel blogger, I was particularly interested in an item about a new train service that will take tourists from the Vatican Gardens to the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gondolfo.
Of course, from the developer’s point of view, the crowd funding aspect of the app is crucial. Maintaining an art collection is an expensive business, and art galleries and museums across the world are always looking for innovative ways of raising money. You can use Patrum to become a patron of the Vatican Museums but the ground breaking aspect is that you can also use it to make small donations, pledging amounts from $10 upwards towards the restoration of particular artworks.
Who Should Use Patrum?
Although the app is aimed at patrons and potential donors, it is free to use and there is no expectation that every user will make a donation. There is information about Patrum and how to download it on the website.
Personally I found it interesting because of the regular short articles about the artworks and about art more generally. Some of these link art to the spiritual aspect of the Vatican, such as the intriguingly titled Poverty, the Pope and Vincent van Gogh, but don’t be put off if you are not a Catholic (I’m not, but I still enjoyed the articles). Traditionally much of Western art was created for religious purposes or influenced by Christianity, and you can understand it better if you have an idea of the underlying philosophy. And, where an art collection has been created within a particular ethos you will enjoy it more if you can appreciate how individual pieces fit into that ethos.
Time will tell how well the crowd funding and social media aspects of Patrum work out. But, if it is successful, it is likely that many more museums and art galleries will develop something similar of their own.