The National Archives of Malta

The front of the National Archives.

I figured placement was quite a good topic for a blog post and considering no ones blog has been very active recently I thought I’d make a post.

My placement is taking place in The National Archives of Malta, which are located in Rabat. The archive is located in a beautiful historical building that used to be the Santo Spirito, one of the oldest world-wide hospitals, with its functioning as a hospital dating back to at least 1372. There is even a little window that was in place so that people who did not want to keep their baby could anonymously put it in the little window and the hospital would take care of it.

Stored Collections
Stored Collections

I have been asked to continue cataloguing a collection of state school records from each locality in Malta, each from varying time periods. So far I haven’t really found anything interesting, just lot’s on entries in a log book of the reasons why people were absent from class – this mainly being listed as ‘mild illness’. I am hoping that something more interesting pops up at some point. The majority of my documents have been in English which has been a relief, but every now and then a page appears in either Maltese or Italian and I have to get someone to translate it for me. I’ve picked up a few words in the process!

Collections bound together with string
Collections bound together with string

I’ve been quite lucky in the fact that my working hours are from 09:00 to 14:00 (as most places shut here for the afternoon), however it has left me with limited time especially considering I flew out and fly home on placement days, but hopefully this wont ruin my chances of getting lots of cataloguing done! I am also being taken on a visit to the University of Malta where I have been asked to present on why students should come to the UK and my experience of university and working in archives. I am terrible at presentations, but there are only 8 people on the course so I am hoping it will go okay.

I am cataloguing into ATOM as the archive is small and cannot afford to buy software such as CALM, and I am following ISAD(G) standards, although this is only something that the archive have begun to do recently. They used to use a different system, but I am unsure of what it was called as it was not something that we had been taught or had been mentioned in class.

Paper covers stuck to original document with sellotape

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Paper covers stuck to original documents with sellotape

I find the archives here quite different to those in the UK for a variety of reasons. They store things differently to begin with, some items are in alphabetical order and they have some paper catalogues that no-one seems to know how to use except from the person who created it. The level of preservation is interesting, as many of the documents I have been dealing with have had ‘paper covers’ created for them, but these have been put together with sellotape which is obviously not a fantastic material to use in an archive. There is only one archivist here, despite being the National Archives, and only one other person who has any profession training in the field. Other staff members have ‘learnt on the job’ to some extent, but do not hold any information management/archive qualifications. However, I am really glad I came as the experience has been fantastic. I even got taken to a prestigious international book and publishing event (which included an awards ceremony) which was attended by the French Ambassador among lots of important Maltese people!

How is everyone else getting along? I hope it’s all going well!

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