During the last decade, the Vatican Museums have been working diligently to digitize their vast collection of over 82,000 manuscripts so that the world may share in the universal history of humanity. These digital manuscripts, of which there are already nearly 20,000 available for view, are an invaluable resource to historians and amateurs alike, because they can be examined again and again, with no danger to the original document.
Now, the Vatican has found a way to make some of their historical documents even more interactive: coloring books.
Back in 2016, The New York Academy of Medicine Library had the great idea of selecting about two dozen pieces of art from their own collection and converting them into a free, digital coloring book. They turned the idea into a week-long social media event, in which they invited libraries, archives, and other such establishments with similarly vast collections to join in the fun.
The Vatican took part in this event in both 2017 and 2018, and these two books are still available to download on Digivaticana.org, free of charge. Each of them is filled with black-and-white images from a wide range of artistic styles, which offer varying levels of difficulty to each coloring challenge. Some of the featured images include scale drawings of castles and palaces, nature scenes, a Japanese print, 19th-century St. Peter’s Square, mythological creatures, and more.
It’s a great activity that’s age appropriate for the whole family to take part in, especially if you’re hunkered down for the coronavirus. Some of the larger images will be easier for younger children to fill in, while the older kids and adults can choose from the more detail oriented, complex artworks.
While the week-long event usually takes place in February, we encourage anyone who enjoys the color work they did to share the work under the hashtag, #ColorOurCollection, or maybe a better one these days would be #ColorAwayCOVID. It’s never too late to bring back a trend or start a new one. Who knows? You may even strike up a new friendship with another Catholic colorer.