Musei Vaticani
Museo Etnologico Anima Mundi

Roma, Italy

2019

The Vatican’s ethnological museum, Anima Mundi, is perhaps still relatively little known, yet it is one of the most interesting destinations of its kind. It holds more than 80,000 ethnological objects and works of art – including prehistoric artifacts many thousands of years old. It is a unique collection that documents religious cultures from around the world. It is also a collection that embodies the heart of a museum that, today as in the past, aspires to create bridges with distant lands and different cultures.

Founded at the end of the Universal Missionary Exhibition of 1925, the Vatican Missionary Museum of Ethnology was established by Pope Pius XI in the Lateran Palace. A significant selection of works from the Missionary Exhibition was retained there as the nucleus of a permanent collection, preserving important testimonies of distant peoples and mission lands.

Transferred to its current location within the Vatican Museums complex in 1973, the Museum subsequently began a complete renovation project. The first fruits are now visible in the Oceania-Australia section, inaugurated in September 2019 by Pope Francis.

Describing the spirit of the renewed museum, Pope Francis said: "I like to think that what we are inaugurating today is not simply a museum, in its traditional conception. In fact, I found the name chosen for this collection appropriate: Anima Mundi [‘the Soul of the World’]. I think that the Vatican Museums are called to become more and more a living ’home’, inhabited and open to all, with the doors wide open to the peoples of the whole world. Whoever enters here must also feel that ’his’ art has the same value and is cared for and preserved with the same passion as the masterpieces of the Renaissance or the immortal Greek and Roman sculptures".

Goppion managed the complete renovation of the Australia-Oceania space, redesigning the architecture and modernizing the old display cases, which required a complete restyling.

The exhibition design was curated by Adrièn Gardère. The circulation path has been completely renewed: on entering, visitors encounter an ’archipelago’ of showcases, among which they are free to wander and explore.

An aesthetic of lightness and transparency creates an open vista that allows the visitor’s gaze to sweep over the entire collection, providing an immediate glimpse of the richness of the civilizations on show.

The large showcases display over 300 multicolored and varied works, each of which is displayed on customised supports. The vitality and unique identity of each piece is allowed to speak to the visitor in spacious settings.

Even the storerooms, located on the upper floor, have been made visible from below and reorganized in close relationship with the display cases beneath. Opening these spaces up to the public gaze shows the breadth of the Vatican collections and the careful, continuous work of the Museum's curators.

The Anima Mundi Vatican Ethnological Museum has embarked on an exciting new phase in its history, displaying its core spirit of openness, tolerance and collaboration across the cultures of our world.

Goppion managed the complete renovation of the Australia-Oceania space, redesigning the architecture and modernizing the old display cases, which required a complete restyling.

The exhibition design was curated by Adrièn Gardère. The circulation path has been completely renewed: on entering, visitors encounter an ’archipelago’ of showcases, among which they are free to wander and explore.

An aesthetic of lightness and transparency creates an open vista that allows the visitor’s gaze to sweep over the entire collection, providing an immediate glimpse of the richness of the civilizations on show.

The large showcases display over 300 multicolored and varied works, each of which is displayed on customised supports. The vitality and unique identity of each piece is allowed to speak to the visitor in spacious settings.

Even the storerooms, located on the upper floor, have been made visible from below and reorganized in close relationship with the display cases beneath. Opening these spaces up to the public gaze shows the breadth of the Vatican collections and the careful, continuous work of the Museum's curators.

The Anima Mundi Vatican Ethnological Museum has embarked on an exciting new phase in its history, displaying its core spirit of openness, tolerance and collaboration across the cultures of our world.