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Vatican fundraising: there’s an app for that

Patrum aims to bring in donations for restoration projects, and connect patrons around the world

by Gareth Harris  |  13 August 2015
Vatican fundraising: there’s an app for that
The Vatican Museums' new app aims to raise funding for restorations
The Vatican Museums in Rome have launched an app targeted at patrons and donors in a bid to raise funds for a series of major restoration projects. The app, called Patrum, is free to download and is “the first cultural institution app bringing together instant chat technology, crowdsource fundraising, and online community building”, says Juliana Biondo, the digital initiatives manager in the museums’ patrons office.

Users of the app can donate to the current restoration projects of the Vatican Museums, with $10 the requested minimum donation. Patrons who contribute to restoration schemes are known as “silver patrons”. There are perks for “gold patrons”, who have individually funded entire restoration projects. “[These individuals] will receive access to a direct messaging service to the patrons office curators,” Biondo says.

The institution, which was founded in 1506, is seeking funding for schemes including the restoration and partial restitching of a French-style, 18th-century tapestry (costing $129,900) and the conservation of five painted 13th- and 14th-century scrolls by the Chinese calligrapher Zhao Yong ($140,975). A newsfeed issued three times a week will inform users of the progress of conservation projects.

Biondo says that the app is a vital new funding stream for conservation work. The Vatican Museums are one of the largest generators of income for the Vatican City State: last year ticket sales raked in $87m, with full entry costing €16 ($18). The Vatican City State claims half; the remainder goes towards the operating costs of the Vatican Museums, covering salaries for 800 staff members and building maintenance costs. “There is very little left to spend on restoration projects for the art collection,” Biondo says.

The Vatican Museums also hopes the app will spark online conversations between patrons worldwide. “We want to create a platform in which, for example, a patron from Ohio could speak with one from Monte Carlo about a work of art they both like, a shared experience in Rome, or a great art event they recently went to,” Biondo says. The app also allows users to delve into the collection, which includes works by Michelangelo, Raphael and Botticelli. 

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