The Preventive Conservation Unit (PSU), which forms part of the Diagnostic Science Laboratories (DSL), was set up to address the preservation concerns of the vast amount of material cultural heritage under the care of Heritage Malta.

As part of a new strategy of sustainability introduced by Heritage Malta since 2003, the Agency has sought to introduce this relatively new discipline in order to mitigate the real risks to the material content of our cultural treasures.

PCU procures and seeks to find the most cost-effective means and instrumentation for the monitoring of environmental parameters in order to be in a position to plan and reduce risks of deterioration to our material cultural heritage. It is currently responsible for monitoring important archaeological World Heritage Sites, such as the prehistoric temples of Ħaġar Qim, Mnajdra and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, as well as museums and palaces, where various collections are displayed and stored. PCU staff members propose and plan strategies for the care of particularly delicate artefacts and collections and are also approached for advice on the proper use of new materials for display and storage of artefacts and collections.

This section contributes to short- and long-term planning together with other sections within Heritage Malta, in order to minimize the risks involved when collections and individual objects need to be moved for exhibitions and other purposes. Relevant to this activity, this section has been an active contributor in the design of documentation and policy making for the terms and conditions for the travelling of artefacts. It has also introduced a condition assessment process that ultimately aids in the determination of whether an artefact is fit to travel, a shared, accountable and informed decision.

Other major projects this section has coordinated and is currently involved in include the environmental monitoring of the Bank Of Valletta Tarxien Temples Project and St Paul’s Catacombs.

PCU continually carries out research in an effort to ensure the protection of Heritage Malta’s collections through the application of recent scientific knowledge and in accordance with international practices.