The Malta Independent 30 March 2023, Thursday
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Preserving historical documents

Owen Bonnici Friday, 27 January 2023, 08:16 Last update: about 3 months ago

This week hundreds of Sir Adrian Dingli's private documents, dating back to the beginning of the 19th century when Malta was just beginning to form part of the British Empire, have become part of the National Archives. This collection is the largest of six archival collections that the National Archives has just acquired from Dr Albert Ganado.

These documents are of great importance because, through them, they will continue to keep history as an integral part of our country's life and will continue to give it the importance it deserves.


I wish to thank Dr Ganado, who, over a long period of years, collected and saved these documents and his family for the work carried out for this collection and also all the workers of the National Archives and its academic collaborators for the great work and dedication they have towards the living history of Malta, led by my friend Dr Charles Farrugia.

These collections are important because they complement the documents already in the National Archives and lead to a more complete picture.

The National Archives of Malta, apart from Sir Adrian Dingli documents, has also acquired a number of archival records of national importance from the Albert Ganado Collection.

The most important and extensive set is the Sir Adrian Dingli Collection. The Adrian Dingli records will become a point of reference for major events which took place in the 19th century.

Here are some notes with regards to the collections.


Following his graduation as a lawyer at the age of 19, Dingli (1817–1900) travelled for six years around Europe attending the universities of Rome, Bologna, Bonn, Heidelberg, the Sorbonne and Oxford. He was elected to serve on the Council of Government in 1849 where he was considered as the most influential member. In 1854 Dingli was appointed Crown Advocate and set on modernising the Maltese laws; by 1873 the Maltese legal system was completely reformed and in line with the most modern codes of the day. In 1880 Adrian Dingli was admitted to the bench and given the title of Chief Justice. This collection includes reports, draft legislation, correspondence and various other records.

In addition to the Sir Adrian Dingli Collection, the National Archives also acquired these collections from Dr. Albert Ganado: the Bonavita Family, Emmanuele Mizzi, Paolo Testaferrata Abela, Caruana Gatto and Albert Laferla.

The Bonavita Collection includes documents collected by Vincenzo Bonavita (1752-1810), Judge during the time of the Knights and who ended up exiled to Gozo accused of treason by the Maltese who rose up against the French, after they were expelled. We also find documents of Sir Ignazio Gavino Bonavita (1792–1865), including the Statute Fondamentale dell'Università di Malta of 1838 with his handwritten notes.


Family papers collected by Vincenzo Bonavita (1752 – 1810), a judge under the Order and subsequently under the French and the British. He was forced to leave Valletta during the French Blockade due to food shortage and later accused of treason by the Maltese insurgents and stripped of all his property and offices and sent in exile to Gozo. Once the British gained power he immediately tried to gain their favour and was gradually reinstated into the public sector.

Sir Ignazio Gavino Bonavita (1792–1865)

Bonavita was instrumental in the codification of the Maltese criminal laws and the laws of civil procedure. He became lawyer in 1812, a magistrate eight years later and was appointed judge in 1827. This collection includes personal papers and official documents concerning the Maltese criminal code (1854). It includes also the 1838 Statuto Fondamentale dell’Università di Malta with Bonavita’s handwritten notes who claims to have drafted the statute.


Emanuele Mizzi, uncle of Prime Minister Enrico Mizzi, graduated as a medical doctor in 1880 and continued his studies in Vienna and Paris.  Besides being a doctor, Mizzi had a strong interest in the Calassics.  He joined the Turkish Sanitary Services in Constantinople, becoming the Ottoman Health Delegate at the Dardanelles and Smyrna. He was responsible for the establishment of a Lazzaretto in Yemen. In 1914 he started his employment with the Egyptian government. The Collection includes various letters, documents about his literary works, correspondence with the Order of Malta (1930s) and other documents.


The Collection includes requests for reimbursements for losses suffered during the French Blockade of 1798 and other records.


The Caruana Gatto Collection is made up of records put together by Mgr Roberto Caruana Gatto (1871–1941) and includes correspondence and ephemera.


A key figure in the history of Maltese education, Laferla joined the civil service in 1902. His connections with education started in 1920 with his appointment as Director of Primary Schools and was raised to Director of Education in 1934 when secondary education was added to his duties. During his tenure he oversaw the creation of a new Teacher Training School and the establishment of Central Schools and Community Schools. The Collection is made up of correspondence and other records.



We have also launched Heritage Malta’s events calendar for the first six months of the current year with over 70 events offering a wide variety of activities and experiences that may be enjoyed by people of all ages.

These initiatives are a brilliant opportunity for the public at large be introduced to various aspects of Malta’s history and culture while enjoying themselves in pro-active, hands-on experiences.

 This marks another link in a chain of efforts leading to a new meaning for accessibility to our heritage, as well as a new meaning to heritage itself, which should not just be admired but lived and experienced because it is what forms us as a nation.

The jam-packed calendar running until the end of June targets children, teenagers, scholars, and the general public. Events range from fun-filled, hands-on edutainment kids’ activities to large-scale and smaller exhibitions, re-enactments, members events, curatorial talks, thematic tours, public lectures, special openings of closed sites, harbour cruises, heritage trails, equinox events, as well as Taste History’s exclusive gastronomic delights.

With the opening of this Programme, which seeks to improve access to our cultural heritage among locals and tourists, Heritage Malta's visitors are in for another treat.

Heritage Malta is to be commended for these projects through which the public gets the opportunity to learn about many parts of Maltese history and culture while engaging in enjoyable hands-on activities.

This is the ideal illustration of how History Malta places people of all ages at the center of its aim to make heritage accessible to everyone, always and in every location. The initiative also exemplifies the agency's ongoing efforts to provide its visitors with a more comprehensive and engaging experience via new and creative techniques supported by cutting-edge technology.

firmly believe that the cultural inheritance passed down to us, both tangible and intangible, is our collective responsibility as a nation. We must all do our part to safeguard it and leave it to our successors in a better state than we found 


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