‘While celebrating heritage, our museum seeks to speak to today’s audiences,’ - Mons. Vella, Curator of the Mdina Cathedral Museum
Monsignor Edgar Vella, Curator of the Mdina Cathedral Museum requires no introduction. Locally his name is intrinsically tied to everything and anything ecclesiastically artistic, as, over the years, he has nurtured a reputation for connoisseurship and authority in the field.
The curator of one of Malta’s finest collections of artistic heritage since 2006, Mons. Vella together with his team of collaborators has endeavoured to create an impressive journey through Malta’s artistic history. “Ours is an eclectic museum, which takes the visitor through a voyage of Malta’s past, with strategic stops at some of the most beautiful moments of the island’s eventful history. While celebrating heritage, our museum seeks to speak to today’s audiences, in terms of presentation and choice of subject matter, in a bid for relevance,” says Mons. Vella.
Housed in the former Archbishop’s Seminary in the silent city, the Mdina Cathedral Museum is home to some of the island’s most impressive artistic collections accessible to the public. Just to mention a few, the 15-piece Baroque solid-silver apostolate is not only an impressive example of Roman ecclesiastical craftsmanship, but also has a thrilling Napoleonic-era story to tell.
Equally impressive is the outstanding collection of original woodcut and engraving prints by German Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer, as well as a recently rediscovered collection of alto-relief waxes by Maltese Baroque-era genius Melchiorre Cafà, known for his works in Malta and Rome.
And, apart from the priceless collection of paintings by old masters such as Mattia Preti and several others, the Dun Karm Room is reserved solely to Dun Karm Psaila, Malta’s national poet who penned the national anthem. Moreover, a specially dedicated space within the museum is soon to be opened to house an impressive coin collection which is expected to take visitors on Malta’s history through coinage.
The Mdina Cathedral Museum has, over the past years, undergone considerable work to enhance the experience it offers, putting the values of access and inclusivity as a top priority.
“We want to welcome all visitors to our museum, and we want them to feel as comfortable as possible. This includes people from all walks of life, people who have an artistic background, but also those who might not. Most importantly, we are investing extra effort in making our museum accessible to all children,” Mons. Vella notes.
The museum in fact is Malta’s first and, so far, only autistic-friendly museum. “We take inclusivity extremely seriously and want our museum to be equally accessible to all. Our staff are trained to welcome all visitors, while a decompression room within the building is fully equipped to help guests who might have an episode.”
The Mdina Cathedral Museum also organises ‘dress me up’ events for children, whereby children are provided with period costumes, as they visit the museum as protagonists and participants rather than spectators.
“For our guests who are interested in learning more about our invaluable artefacts, QR codes as well as virtual tours provide a never-ending source of knowledge about the importance of each exhibit.”
Asked what his greatest satisfaction, running the Mdina museum is, Mons. Vella shares that he is only too pleased to provide the tools for visitors to truly appreciate what is on display. “We create a bridge between a knowledge-thirsty audience, and the story behind our displays. The rest is then up to the visitor, who most of the time is awe-struck by the greatness of Malta’s heritage,” Mons. Vella enthuses.
“Ultimately, what we are doing here is doing our best to preserve beautiful objects which in one way or another, are a link to our heritage. These artefacts are more than physical objects, as they provide us with answers to some of the most important questions pertaining to our country’s character and national identity,” Mons Vella concludes.
Joe Borg, Mdina Cathedral Museum