Msida, 26 January 2023 (TDI): Malta’s President George Vella spoke at the Industrial Heritage Platform’s National Conference themed “A Future for Industrial Heritage in Malta”  at the University of Malta. 

President Vella said industrial heritage represents our history and tradition for 200 years. He remarked that it had created our cultural landscape in endless ways. He expressed concern that industrial heritage was largely neglected for too long.

Vella emphasized in the conference the need to address issues relating to cultural preservation to protect Malta’s industrial history for the future. He said, “As part of the greater spectrum of our cultural history, it, too, defines who we are.”

Further, he added, “Sheer size, loss of original purpose, & current use are some of the features, out of a bigger picture, of a more complicated cultural heritage environment, that is admittedly not simple to reconcile with potential and meaningful action.”

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Vella praised the Industrial Heritage Platform at the University of Malta for organizing this conference to discuss industrial heritage conservation, preservation in situ, and adaptive reuse in Malta.

He hoped this event would spark discussion about the future. This occasion will give significance and value to this neglected part of our cultural legacy and the country’s heritage management system.

Malta’s industrial heritage

Malta, a Mediterranean island, has a diverse industrial history. Malta has shaped Europe and the Mediterranean’s industrial environment from its military stronghold to its trade and industry focus.

The Knights of Malta built the Cottonera Lines, a set of fortifications, in the 17th and 18th centuries. These fortifications, including St. Clement’s and St. Anne’s bastions, demonstrate Malta’s strategic importance and the Knights’ military engineering skills.

They also represent Malta’s history and influence on the Mediterranean region. Malta Drydocks on Valletta’s Grand Harbour is another historic industrial site. Malta’s economy and prosperity have relied on this location since the late 19th century.

They repaired British Navy and commercial ships during both World Wars. These Drydocks are a unique industrial historical site and a vital economic hub for the island.

The Malta Shipbuilding Company, Malta Gas Works, and Malta Railway were all crucial to Malta’s growth. Many of Malta’s industrial heritage sites and structures are at risk of being lost as the country modernizes.

Preserving and renewing Malta’s industrial legacy has grown in popularity. Abandoned factories are turning into museums or cultural facilities.

These locations have also been promoted for tourists to boost the economy and raise awareness of Malta’s industrial legacy.