The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley is extending its popular “Vatican Splendors” exhibit through Sept. 11.
Thursday’s announcement came a little more than week before the exhibit was originally scheduled to close.
Record crowds since “Vatican Splendors” opened on March 13 convinced library and Vatican officials to keep it open longer, officials said. Museum attendance has been up 42 percent from the same period last year.
“This exceeded our expectations for turnout,” said Melissa Giller, chief marketing officer for The Reagan Foundation and Institute.
More than 232,000 people have toured the Vatican exhibit since it opened.
“We’re honored that the Vatican has allowed us to extend this exhibit an additional two weeks,” said John Heubusch, executive director for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. “It is our hope that this will allow everyone who wanted to see the exhibit the opportunity to do so.”
The Reagan Library will now be open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. all Saturdays and Sundays until the exhibit closes. Regular hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. will apply to weekdays only.
The 10,000-square-foot exhibit, comprising one of the largest Vatican collections ever to tour the United States, includes historical and religious objects, some dating to the first century. On exhibit are original works of art by Michelangelo, Bernini and Guercino.
Many of the pieces have never been on display in North America, and some are not on view to the general public elsewhere, even at the Vatican itself.
The Reagan Library is the exclusive West Coast destination of the exhibit, and guests have come from all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Giller said the library’s goal is to attract 370,000 visitors between October 2015 and September 2016. With the huge success of the Vatican exhibit, library officials believe they’ll exceed 415,000 people.
“We hoped for this turnout; however, until the exhibit opens, you just never really know what to expect,” said Giller.
After the exhibit closes, the items will return to the Vatican, which has ordered that they never be gone for more than a year at a time.
Given the large crowds, the public is encouraged to book tickets in advance at www.reaganlibrary.com/tickets.
Giller said the next exhibit that will open on Oct. 22 is called “Interactive! The Exhibition — How Pop Culture Reshapes Technology.”
She said it will allow guests to experience popular culture’s influences on modern technology with a variety of “hands-on” experiences, including Oculus Rift virtual reality, interactive robots, the driverless car, multiple gaming stations, remote control drones, 3D printing stations and more.
“It will be a great family exhibit,” Giller said.
For more information and pre-sale tickets for “Interactive!” go to www.reaganlibrary.com/interactive.