The first time Gary Edson, director of the Museum of Texas Tech, heard about the possibility of housing an exhibit of art from the Vatican Museums was at an education committee meeting.
He gave it little thought.
"At that time," he recalled, "and later when I spoke with Father Malcolm (Neyland), there was not a great deal of focus. I never doubted our ability to do it. But I had no idea what it might be. I thought perhaps one of the Vatican's circulating exhibits was coming here.
"In fact, it wasn't until I met with Dr. (Francesco) Buranelli a year and a half ago that I knew what would be made available."
Buranelli is acting director general of the Vatican Museums in Rome.
According to Edson, Buranelli offered a choice of three exhibits. Edson said the obvious best choice was the exhibit now known as "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection," which opens June 2 at the Museum of Texas Tech.
From the vatican|
Exhibit: "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection."
Complimentary exhibits: Works from the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation in Houston, the Museo Franz Mayer in Mexico City and the Comision Nacional de Arte Sacro of Mexico.
When: June 2-Sept. 15.
Where: Museum of Texas Tech, Fourth Street and Indiana Avenue.
Museum hours: 1 p.m.-7 p.m. Sunday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday, and 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Thursday. Closed Mondays.
Tickets: Free. However, tickets must be reserved in advance by calling 742-6800 or toll free (866) 803-6873. Those reserving tickets must know the date and time of day that they wish to attend. Approximately 200 ticket-holders will be admitted each hour.
Reservations to date: , as of Wednesday.
More information: vaticanexhibit.com.
Buranelli's other two options were exhibits on micro-mosaics and Etruscan materials.
Edson said that the Vatican exhibit is the building's most important to date, but, "We've had a great many important exhibits. The Vatican exhibit certainly is the most important in terms of bringing international attention, and because of the rare opportunity given to people of this region.
"But I would not want to demean other great exhibits."
Edson praised the efforts of Bishop Placido Rodriguez, leader of the Catholic Diocese in Lubbock, and Father Malcolm Neyland, a West Texas priest who oversees congregations in Post and Wilson.
"There is a distribution of responsibility and authority," he said. "But the contract for this exhibit is with Texas Tech, signed by me and (Tech) President (David) Schmidley. Contractually, the Vatican's agreement is with Texas Tech.
"We are interested only in having an exhibit that will be beneficial to Tech and the community, and also making sure the city of Lubbock is represented well."
The exhibit is an expensive undertaking for the museum.
"The exact dollar amount has not been finalized," Edson said, "but we, meaning the museum, are spending a significant amount. In the first place, we have to do a major renovation of the galleries here set it up for the exhibit and then put it back the way it as. We have to hire additional personnel, everything from security to custodial to people working in the shops.
"Texas Tech also is underwriting the exhibit catalog. We hope to recoup that amount through sales."
The museum' physical renovation will be handled by a team of in-house staff and other Tech employees.
Edson also is in the final stages of choosing which company will supply the recorded audio devices that provide facts about each piece in the exhibit.
"We want to keep the (rental) cost down for visitors," Edson said. "And we have not requested a superstar narrator, but a lot of that will depend on the script and which company we use. Whether we go with a revenue-sharing plan or underwrite the full costs, the museum also must pay for the audio devices."
With perhaps as many as 200,000 people visiting the museum in a time frame of just over three months, parking is another of Edson's concerns.
"What we're developing is more of a flow plan than a parking plan," Edson said. "Between the museum, the National Ranching Heritage Center and the International Cultural Center, I think we'll have enough parking available in the immediate area. But there's also a backup plan which has visitors parking in a commuter lot and being shuttled to the museum.
"Since everything is happening in the summer, it gives us some flexibility."
Edson said that he expects no long lines dealing with summertime temperatures outdoors. "With 200 people admitted to the exhibit every hour, we can handle two hours worth of people inside the museum.
"Based on projected numbers, I think we have enough restrooms to accommodate everyone. And we will make sure there are places where people can sit down and have a cold drink while they're waiting."
No one aspect of staging an exhibition of this magnitude is more difficult than others, Edson said. "The hardest part of doing this," he explained, "is just making sure everything comes together at the same time. Our exhibit staff is very qualified. I'm not worried about presentation or traffic flow.
"It's just the need for all of the little things to come together at exactly the same time."