The Malta Independent 23 February 2020, Sunday

Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit launched at Maritime Museum

Giulia Magri Wednesday, 13 March 2019, 15:14 Last update: about 13 months ago

An underwater cultural heritage unit was inaugurated today by Heritage Malta at the Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa.

Timmy Gambin, a professor of Maritime Archaeology at the University of Malta who is in charge of the project, said the unit will be taking care of the culture found under water and on the Maltese seabed.

The unit will be accessible to underwater divers, and through technological means, Heritage Malta is working towards providing accessibility to videos, Virtual Reality and also 3D-models for visually impaired people so they too can explore the seabed.

Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici said that Heritage Malta has the authority to take care of the island’s heritage, both on land and under water. “It is vital that we take care of our heritage, and this unit is just the beginning.”

He thanked the work which Heritage Malta has achieved so far, promoting the importance of cultural history not just to tourists but also to the Maltese citizens.

 “Moreover, the creation of new accessible sites by divers and through virtual reality, we will give added value to the diving tourism package offered by the Maltese Islands. It is envisaged that the Maltese Islands will become a market leader in the field of deep-water wreck diving. The Unit will also be undertaking an outreach campaign aimed at informing the public about the importance of its underwater cultural heritage as part of enhancing our cultural strategy to ensure in making this sector more accessible,” Minister Bonnici said.

For a number of years, systematic underwater archaeological research has been conducted off the coast of Malta and Gozo. In the course of this long-term project some very important deposits of underwater cultural heritage have been discovered, mapped and studied. Such sites vary from a 2,700-year-old Phoenician shipwreck, the oldest in the central Mediterranean, to dozens of aircraft crash sites, and from early modern shipwrecks to battleships from World War I. A significant number of nations and cultures - both past and present - are represented on the seabed off the Maltese Islands. This variety makes Malta the curator for a uniquely well-preserved cultural resource that is global and that belongs to all humankind, the minister said.

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