Yesterday a new friend and I went to see an exhibit called the Splendors of the Vatican, not at a gallery nor a museum, but at the Franklin Institute. When I read the announcement of the exhibit, I wondered why the exhibit was located in an institute noted for science and anthropology. After viewing the exhibit I concluded that the title of the exhibit is a misnomer.
My friend and I familiar with the splendid collection of art and artifacts at the Vatican, were disappointed in the meager display of Vatican art at the Institute, confirming my opinion that the exhibit was not named properly. Nevertheless, anthropologically the curators of the exhibit tried to give the general public a quick visual history of a 2000 year old institution that has played a significant role in World History.
For better, and sometimes worse, the Roman Catholic Church, head-quartered in the Vatican, has influenced art, architecture, music, cartography, science, technology and humanitarian aid. To demonstrate this, the exhibit included some copies and some originals of the oldest maps of Africa and the New World. Also included were letters and books written in several distinct scripts and languages. Hopefully, through this exhibit the general public will learn to respect the contributions to man-kind from this very old institution.
The exhibit was not inter-active except at the very end. Guests were invited to put their hands into a hand -print of Pope John- Paul II, a kind of fare-well handshake and blessing.