The Malta Independent 25 June 2019, Tuesday

Record-breaking Heritage Malta

Owen Bonnici Friday, 7 June 2019, 09:48 Last update: about 17 days ago

2018 was another record-breaking yearon all fronts for Heritage Malta. The Agencyregistered a record in the number of visitor and generation of revenue for the sixth year in a row, with a surplus for the year of around €460k compared to €362k of the previous year and over 1.6 million paying visitors (c.a. 1.2 million in 2017) the highest in this Agency’s history. 

Last year also saw the highest number of events, exhibitions and lectures ever organized by Heritage Malta, the year in which the agency published 15 high quality publications, organized a myriad of educational and thematic events for school children and the year where Heritage Malta took possession of Main Guard, Villa Frere gardens, the Fortress Builders and the Underground Valletta Cisterns. These are all very important sites which I am sure Heritage Malta will turn into impeccable experiences in the near future. 

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Parliament this week discussed Heritage Malta (and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage Estimates)for 2019, with this positive background. During the year under review, Heritage Malta sustained the positive impetus and to some extent surpassed the noteworthy and record-breaking achievements of 2017. 

It was a year packed to the brim with activities and achievements.  Topping the list was the inauguration of MUŻA, Malta’s Fine Arts Museum, as a major ERDF co-funded project. Heritage Malta also increased the number of heritage sites under its responsibility, launched the popular Heritage Malta Passport Scheme for all students (primary and secondary) to benefit from unlimited free entry to all museums and sites accompanied by two adults. The Agency’s output also comprised the biggest-ever number of cultural activities, website hits and social media statistics, and an impressive outreach programme including thematic sessions for schoolchildren and publications. 

Also worth noting is the contribution by this Agency to Valletta 2018 - the European Capital of Culture.  This not only presented a challenge in terms of value adding initiatives undertook by the Agency, but also meant a positive influx of tourists in Malta visiting museums and sites managed by Heritage Malta. 

Apart from achievements, Heritage Malta has ongoing projects which will give added value to both locals and the ever increasing cultural tourists. The Malta Maritime Museum is being given a facelift with the restoration of the façade, and €2m secured from EU funds will see to this Museum’s regeneration and digitization. 

Other works include a management plan that has been drafted and approved for the GħarDalam project which includes the Ta’Kaċċatura Roman Villa;the Tas-Silġ site will get its own visitor centre and will start opening daily; restoration is ongoing at San Pawl Milqi Chapel; whilst Villa Frere gardens is another interesting project – whilst emergency works are at place, the gardens will also be promoted and Heritage Malta will help with their upkeep. 

Heritage Malta teamed with the Restoration Directorate and a €10m EU project will see the restoration of the Grandmaster’s Palace, the relocation of the Armoury, a renewed visitor experience of the Palace and State Rooms and a complete overhaul of the whole infrastructure. 

This year is also a promising year. The Agency has already launched the Senior Passport Scheme, allowing one senior to take two youths to all museums and sites managed by HM.  The Agency has launched the Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit hence extending its mission to underwater cultural heritage as well, launched the Valletta Management Unit with a remit to ensure the upkeep of the Capital and ensure Valletta remains listed as a UNESCO World Heritage City.2019will see the launch of the underground Valletta Cisterns experience. 

Heritage Malta is on the forefront where our heritage is concerned - with good planning, a professional and dedicated team, this Agency has contributed and will continue to do so, to safeguard and enhance the cultural experience for all.

 

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The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage is also making great strides forward. A much-needed reorganisation started towards the end of 2017 to better and strengthen the Superintendence. We have made achievements, but we acknowledge that more needs to be done. Joseph Magro Conti, who is doing sterling work to see that this reorganisation gives the best possible results, is now heading the SCH. Former Superintendent Anthony Pace is leading a project aimed to place more sites in Malta on the Unesco Cultural Heritage list. 

This reorganisation saw to the employment of 13 professionals qualified in diverse aspects related to culture and historical patrimony, and another three were engaged to strengthen the administrative side. Five other highly qualified employees joined SCH – again strengthening middle management and adding restoration expertise to the now enthusiastic department. 

It is worthy to note that during last year, the SCH received not less than 10,000 consultation applications on development – all of which were processed within the timeframe stipulated by law – a noticeable achievement for the entity.

 Another achievement was the number of processed cases of archaeological monitoring, brought about by the addition in personnel as mentioned above. During these inspections, a demand which is on the increase due to the infrastructural works being carried out, archaeological findings were saved and in some cases solutions were found to safeguard our patrimony without hindering the works being done. 

The Superintendence is consolidating its work, extending cooperation with other public entities in the sector, consultations with other entities, participating in different fora, both local and abroad, and increasing its expertise by participating in workshops and giving its employees the latest training in collaboration with the University of Malta. 

I envisage good times ahead in this entity – an entity that is doing its best to safeguard our national patrimony.

 

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Today Malta recalls the events which occurred on the SetteGiugnio – the 7th of June 1919 – exactly 100 years back. 

This day is considered to be thebeginning of the uphill struggle of the Maltese and Gozitans for the freedom of our country. It was not an easy task for those who decided to take to the streets and protest – they showed enormous courage - courage that was the foundation which eventually led to Malta’s freedom from occupation by foreign states.

We cannotforget the Maltese heroes who paved the way, leading to where we stand today. Living in a democratic country and strengthening all that we have achieved on our way, looking ahead for a better future. 

This 100th anniversary is being commemorated in many ways apart from the official celebrations: Heritage Malta has launched an exhibition to commemorate this event, branded “Culhat al belt” (literally translates as Everyone to Valletta), and there’s Teatru Malta’s show VII (Sette) – a dynamic show in partnership with Fondazzjoni ĊelebrazzjonijietNazzjonali.

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