TOOLS, TRADES & TRADITIONS is a unique museum in Malta. It presents a single private collection of objects and tools related to an array of trades. In the current display the prime role has be given to the artefact, both as a tool matching specific requirements but also as a collectable in its own right, exhibiting aesthetic and historic qualities.
Joseph Zammit Tabona started his collection in the early 1970s when his wife Susan inherited a few items from her step-father, the late Dr. Thomas Agius Ferrante. A consultant paediatrician, he had over the years, received several tools as presents, from the farming families he was visiting. This formed the basis of the collection and the start of a lifetime obsession.
During the following two decades the collection grew at the rhythm of the weekly visits to the Sunday market in Valletta, but also to local antique shops where old tools could still be found. The collection was regularly expanded, almost obsessively, with many items that were unusual and Maltese. Each item has a story, a connection with the collector and in most cases with Malta.
However, what prompted the idea of creating a museum, was the acquisition, some years back, of Pawlu Tanti’s collection, which almost doubled the initial number of items. Fascinated with the artistry, ingenuity and skill that were applied to make an instrument produced to perform sometimes a very humble task, Pawlu Tanti was very interested in old tools.
Only a portion of the collection is being presented here. Many artefacts were used and incorporated in the design for the refurbishment of The Xara Palace - Relais & Chateaux, and also in the adjacent Trattoria AD 1530, both also located in Mdina. Most of the furniture within the hotel consists of very fine antiques specifically selected and purchased for their current use, whilst the walls of the Trattoria are adorned with an impressive tools collection.
The museum is designed around five main sections that were derived from the study of the existing collection. Respect towards the taxonomy already established in the collection was paramount. Centred on the objects, the museum valorises the items whilst maintaining the unity of the collectors’ approach. It is in the same spirit that some of the original notes and attributions are being presented along the tools.
Each collection has its own qualities, logic, shortcomings that have been curated into a contemporary assemblage which highlights the creative diversity and constant innovation that is hidden behind each of these objects. “The business of the experienced workman is not to demand the best possible materials, but rather to make sensible and appropriate use of those available” said Alberti. We wish this place offers a window on past tools and trades, a place where to learn and recall memories, but also a place for intimate and silent discoveries.
Photo credits: Sebastian Tanti Burlo and Louis Rodrigues Lopez on Viewingmalta.com