The Malta Independent 9 August 2020, Sunday

€8 million project sees Mediterranean Conference Centre turned into an Augmented Reality museum

Karl Azzopardi Monday, 13 July 2020, 15:44 Last update: about 27 days ago

The Mediterranean Conference Centre will soon be opening as an augmented reality (AR) museum for public access next week, a project that cost €8 million in EU and local funds.

The museum will open on 20 July, and will then remain open for anyone to visit between 9am till 5pm from Monday to Sunday.  Entrance will be free from this date till 1 August to incentivise more tourism in Valletta.

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This was announced during the inauguration of the museum on Monday morning, wherein Prime Minister Robert Abela, Tourism Minster Julia Farrugia Portelli and Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi had the opportunity to experience the variety of features this museum will have to offer.

Visitors, through the use of their mobile phones, will get the opportunity to roam around the building and virtually experience the day-to-day activities that used to take place in the Middle Ages, during the rule of the Knights of St John, when it was still used as a hospital.

There are 18 channels that offer an explanation on the hospital and its surroundings, including ‘Panorama 360’ which touches upon all the buildings surrounding the port.

The system also offers a hologram of Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette, under whose rule Valletta was built.

Additionally, at the top of the building, while overlooking the Grand Harbour, visitors will have the option to play interactive games while simulate Medieval fights like shooting cannons at the barracks.

MCC Chairman Kenneth Spiteri explained that the idea of creating this kind of museum came about five years ago as people kept asking for more information about this historic establishment.

“While we understood the importance of having this museum, we did not want to hinder any operations here, like conferences and the theatre,” he said, referring to the use of AR.

Parliamentary Secretary Zrinzo Azzopardi praised the use of AR for this project which provides a new way of celebrating Malta’s patrimonial richness.

“This shows that EU funds are being used carefully and to create more job opportunities to increase our economic growth and, on top of all this, to show how we are dedicated to narrating our country’s story,” he said.

Tourism Minister Farrugia Portelli explained that, in total, this project is a €8 million investment; €5 million coming from EU Funds, €2 million from national funds while the other €1 million coming from the Tourism Ministry itself through the MCC.

She explained that this building was inaugurated 41 years ago by then PM Dom Mintoff who had a vision to have a place where conferences can take place which was crucial to attract thousands of visitors.

“This vision, under Abela’s lead, is taking another step forward as tourists will not only be allowed to explore this building but also learn about Malta’s history,” she said, adding that in 2018 alone there were 130,000 people who visited Malta for such conferences.

Furthermore, last year, it received 760,000 visitors, the majority of which attended conferences, while another 37,000 visiting through guided tours.

She added that the ministry is calculating that 91% of tourists who visit Malta, visit the capital city and it strongly believes that this project will attract more of them.

From his end, PM Abela used this project as an example of the message of positivity that the government always puts forward – “while leaving negativity to others”.

He believes that even though we are a small country, our history shows that the things we have achieved are much greater and this project highlights that as well as the vision for technology and innovation that the government has planned.

Touching on EU funds, he added that this week will be a crucial on since he will be communicating with the EU Council on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) package for 2021–2027 next Friday and Saturday, which is crucial for the curation of such projects.

“It is important for all EU members states for us to close this chapter by the coming weekend so that we can move forward with the budget starting from January. If this does not take place, member states will meet in July and close it then,” he said.

The recovery COVID fund is being discussed with the MFF as well which further complicates things but Abela is confident that under German presidency, one can reach a favourable agreement.

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