The Malta Pri­vate Ar­chive Digi­ti­sa­tion Project goes live

Malta Independent - - LIFESTYLE & CULTURE - HMML’s Read­ing Room can be ac­cessed via https://www.vh­mml.org/read­ingRoom/ as well as via Fon­daz­zjoni Pat­ri­monju Malti web­site http://www.pat­ri­monju.org/con­tent.aspx?id=411972&subId=4059 78

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 info@pat­ri­monju.org.

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