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Museums In Malta

There are many different choices of museums on offer throughout Malta, focusing through from historic and maritime to art.

For a closer look at these attractions, please see the details below.

Museums in Malta
Folklore Museum, Gozo

The Museum is located in the apt setting of medieval houses in Milite Bernardo Street in the Citadel. The houses were probably built towards the end of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century. The architectural features are in Sicilian style, and may owe something to the influence of the Chiaramonte family of Sicily and southern Italy when they were Counts of Malta in the late 14th century. It seems probable that this style survived locally after it had become obsolete in Sicily.

The rustic domestic interiors are relatively plain, but pleasant, and contrast sharply with the more delicate facades with their rounded doorways, double windows divided by a slender column and the finely carved stonework. The houses are considered as an outstanding example of late medieval domestic architecture. To ensure their preservation, these houses were rehabilitated into a Folklore Museum in 1983.

Old Prison, Gozo

The Old Prison is situated in the Citadel, overlooking Cathedral Square and adjacent to the Law Courts, to which it was originally connected. In its present form, the prison complex is divided into two sections: the entrance hall, which served as a common cell in the 19th century; and a freestanding block with six individual cells. The prison was in use from the mid-16th century until the beginning of the 20th century. Soon after their arrival in Malta, the Knights of St John started making use of this prison by dispatching their rowdier members ‘to cool down therein’. A new prison was then built in 1548. After the expulsion of the Knights of St John from Malta, the prison was not to fall into disuse. In fact, the number of inmates seems to have increased as the galleys were no longer used as a penal measure.

Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum charts Malta’s maritime history and lore within a Mediterranean context and also illustrates the global nature of seafaring and its impact on society. The Museum is housed in the former British Naval Bakery at Vittoriosa, one of the Three Cities overlooking Grand Harbour.

The building, designed by British architect William Scamp, was erected between 1842 and 1845 on the site of the old covered slipway of the Knights of St John. The bakery was the hub of the Victualling Yard and supplied the Royal Navy with its daily requirements of bread and biscuit. After World War II, it was converted into offices and stores and as the headquarters of the Admiralty Constabulary. The building remained part of the naval establishment up to the closure of the British base in 1979. On entering the Museum, you will find the ‘Anadrian Hall’, which exhibits the engine room machinery of the Anadrian, a steam-driven grab dredger built in 1951 for Malta by Fergusson Brothers of Port Glasgow.

National War Museum

The National War Museum in Fort St Elmo ranks among the most popular tourist venues on the Maltese Islands. The museum mainly represents Malta’s important military role in the post-1800 period under British rule, especially during the Second World War.

It was set up primarily through the efforts of dedicated enthusiasts, founders of the National War Museum Association, and was opened to the public in 1975. The museum building was originally a powder magazine.

Around 1853 it was converted into an armoury, serving during the Second World War to train anti-aircraft gun crews. Fort St Elmo, renowned for its role against incredible odds during the epic 1565 Great Siege, was extended over the years into a formidable fortress. During the Second World War, it was once more the scene of heroic action by Maltese defenders against relentless enemy action. A key feature of the museum is the numerous photographic panels depicting the harsh conditions prevailing in Malta during the crucial War years 1940-1943.

Museum of Fine Arts

The stately home hosting the Museum of Fine Arts dates from the late 1570s and served as a residence of various Knights of the Order of St John. It passed into the ownership of the Order in the mid-18th century, when it was radically transformed into an exuberant Rococo palace. After 1798 it was used mainly as the official residence of the commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, earning its name ‘Admiralty House’. Inaugurated in 1974, the Museum of Fine Arts, houses historic works of art and organises temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.

The greater part of the museum collection is made up of works of art that were originally displayed in buildings of the Order of St John. These were administered by the State following the departure of the Order from Malta in 1798. The collection of the paintings and sculptures was started in the early years of the 20th century.

National Museum of Archaeology

The National Museum of Archaeology displays an exceptional array of artifacts from Malta’s unique prehistoric periods starting with the first arrival of man in the Ghar Dalam phase (5200 BC) and running up to the Tarxien phase (2500 BC).

The collection is housed in the Auberge de Provence, one of the first and most important buildings to be erected in Malta’s baroque capital city, Valletta, after the Great Siege in the late 16th century. The construction of the Auberge was probably entrusted to the local architect Gerolamo Cassar (1520-86). Among the more captivating features of the Auberge is the large top floor salon with its richly painted walls and wooden beamed ceiling.

National Museum of Natural History

The National Museum of Natural History is the national repository of biological specimens. Both life and earth sciences are represented in the museum, which has a particular focus on the Maltese Islands.

The Museum is housed in the 18th century Magisterial Palace of Justice within the medieval walled city of Mdina. The original building served as the seat of the Università, or local Government. In the early 18th century, a new entrance to the city was constructed and the Portuguese Grand Master Antonio Manuel de Vilhena (1722-36) re-structured the building at personal expense and transformed it into the present palace. A bronze bust of the Grandmaster of the Order lies above the main door and Vilhena’s coat-of-arms are sculptured on the main gateway and inside the portico.

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