The Malta Private Archive Digitisation Project goes live
Earlier last year, Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti (FPM) teamed up the Hill Museums & Manuscript Library (HMML) in Minnesota to launch The Malta Private Archive Digitisation Project. This project primarily targets those treasures buried within Malta’s Private libraries, extracting from them rare and interesting artefacts that shed new light onto Maltese socio-economic history and have them digitised. This is the first, comprehensive partnership for both FPM and HMML regarding private collections in Malta, and the first attempt to systematically catalogue and digitize these valuable cultural resources.
Digitisation has today become an extremely popular and necessary tool embraced by Museums, Libraries and Archives, ensuring the conservation and preservation of knowledge for generations to come. HMML have themselves been photographing manuscript collections across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and south India for almost 50 years, making them the world’s leader in the photographic presentation of manuscripts. One of the world’s leading cultural-preservation institutions, HMML’s mission is to identify, digitally photograph, catalogue and archive the contents of endangered manuscripts belonging to threatened communities, and to make these unique cultural resources available to users around the world. Since 1965, HMML, has formed partnerships with over 540 libraries and archives to photograph more than 140,000 medieval, renaissance and early-modern manuscripts from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India. Through their Malta Study Centre, in operation since 1973, new discoveries on the island’s extensive heritage are as of recently being made accessible to the public. The centre itself sponsors digitisation projects to preserve the history of Malta, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, and the history of the Crusades.
The project kicked off in November 2015 with the digitisation on part of the Sir Hannibal Scicluna Archive. This collection consisted of various documents spanning over the previous century and illustrating the interesting life of one of Malta’s most celebrated historians. Contents were initially treated at a conservation lab in order to neutralise any harmful agents and relocated into acid-free boxes, evaluated and organised accordingly. An inventory was constructed based on this organisation and digitisation in currently under way and should be completed towards the end of this year.
Works have also concurrently begun on the Archivum de Piro at the Casa Rocca Piccola. This fascinating archive comprises an extensive private family collection of documents and records including wills, contracts, maps, proofs of nobility and other items of interest including more than six hundred copies of letters sent by Giovanni Pio de Piro, 1st Baron of Budach and 1st Marquis de Piro. Over the past year, metadata and images have been gathered by a team of specialists trained by HMML along with the help and expertise of FPM’s staff and curators. As of this month, a selection of manuscripts from this archive are available along with basic field metadata on HMML’s new online digital Reading Room. This Reading Room allows registered users to freely access HMML’s comprehensive manuscript collections which also include some images from the Cathedral Archives and Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum. To find the collection in Reading Room one may simply go to the website and search ‘Archivum de Piro’ in keyword search, or use the advanced search and select Country; Malta, City; Valletta, and Repository; Archivum de Piro. The Reading Room can also be accessed via FPM.
This collection and others from Malta are in their initial state of release, and at present lack the complex metadata that will be added in the future. Over the course of the next year, more manuscripts and archival material from the Archivum de Piro will be made available to the public, whilst continuously improving access point and metadata. By making this information digital, these artefacts are successfully being preserved and allow FPM, and organisations alike, to continue fulfilling their mission in bringing together hidden treasures, staging them professionally and making them accessible to the public. Any private collector who wishes to contribute to this project may call FPM’s offices on 21231515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.