The Malta Maritime Museum is housed in one of the most imposing British period buildings on the island. It had been conceived and built as a Naval Bakery in the 1840s to the design and under the supervision of the renowned naval architect and engineer William Scamp. It was the very last building the Royal Navy vacated in Malta in March 1979 and it lay abandoned for ten years until, in 1988, it was earmarked to house Malta’s own Maritime Museum.
With the passage of time and the damage resulting from bombing during World War II, it became imperative to overhaul the whole structure. A thorough master plan was drawn up. This plan had to take into consideration the need to maintain the building’s structural integrity, consolidating and preserving the material of the original structure, and at the same time planning for any future expansion of the Museum’s exhibition areas.
Another important task was the updating of all structural designs. This was by no means a small undertaking since many drawings were unavailable. After due research, some drawings were traced back to the United Kingdom. A major mapping and design exercise for the entire structure will ensure that all drawings will now be updated.
The project is already underway. It was decided to prioritise the maintenance of some of the external areas, including three large ventilation turrets because of the risk from falling masonry. The conservation and restoration of these external works has been divided into phases and works have commenced on the first two stages.
Keeping the Museum open for visitors and all the surrounding locality accessible to the general public while the works are in progress is a major challenge. During the conservation work on the ventilation turrets, it was found that steel reinforcement in the form of square belts had been introduced during the actual building and these, after more than 160 years, were now contributing to the deterioration of the structure. Working with local experts, HeritageMalta’s personnel are carrying out derusting and corrosion prevention procedures to these structures which have also been found in the clock tower and in the main chimney.
Throughout this process, accretions, which were dated post 1979 or which were deemed to be giving a misrepresentation to the original structure, are being removed.