The Malta Maritime Museum is a maritime museum in Birgu, Malta. It is housed in the former Royal Naval Bakery, which was built in the 1840s as the main bakery for the Mediterranean Fleet. The museum has a collection of over 20,000 artifacts, and it is the largest museum on the island.
Housed within the Old Naval bakery, the Malta Maritime Museum charts Malta’s maritime history and lore within a Mediterranean context. It also illustrates the global nature of seafaring and its impact on Malta’s society. The museum houses numerous artefacts highlighting the different epochs of Malta’s history that is inadvertently tied to the sea.
The Museum aims at illustrating Malta’s maritime history from prehistory to the present day and to illustrate the fascination of the sea within a Mediterranean context, without neglecting the overall global nature of seafaring. These aims are achieved by the constant search for, identification, and acquisition of artefacts related to the museum’s mission. This task has been aided by the constant donations over these past years by the Maltese general public, foreign individuals, companies, corporate bodies, foreign maritime and naval museums, foreign navies, and Maltese and foreign ambassadors and high commissioners.
The first plans to establish the Malta Maritime Museum were made in 1988, when an advisory committee was set up to set up the museum and collect artifacts from a number of sources. The then-derelict former Royal Naval Bakery in Birgu was chosen to house the museum.
After four years, the museum opened to the public on 24 July 1992. It was inaugurated by the Minister for Education and Museums, Ugo Mifsud Bonnici. Since its establishment, the museum’s collections have increased by donations from Maltese and foreign individuals, foreign maritime museums, foreign navies, and several companies and corporate bodies.
The museum is housed in a large building on the Birgu waterfront which was formerly the Royal Naval Bakery. During the Order of Time in 1607 built an arsenal for the galleys of was located at the site of the current museum order. It was designed by the architect William Scamp, and its façade was reportedly inspired by Windsor Castle. For the first time in Malta, the ceiling beams were not made of wood, but of rolled steel and columns made of cast iron. It consisted of three roofed Hellingen directly on Dockyard Creek, thus protecting the hulls from the weather and allowing undisturbed work on the ships.
After the end of the Naval Order in 1798, galleys were no longer needed and the Royal Navy built the industrial bakery instead of the arsenal to supply the ships to the base in Malta. The building was built from 1842 to 1845. The steam enginesthe bakery, which was needed for many machine work processes, first worked on April 10, 1845; regular operation began in 1848. As such, it is the last surviving facility.
The bakery took over the role of the Order’s bakery in Valletta.The bakery formed part of the Victualling Yard of the Malta Dockyard, which supplied naval personnel of the Mediterranean Fleet with food and drink. At its peak, the bakery produced 30,000 pounds (14,000 kg) of bread and biscuits every day using steam-powered machinery.
Other facilities were shut down until 1907, only those that worked in Malta were active until the 1950s.
The building was badly damaged during the bombing of Malta during the Second World War. The impact and damage from the splinters on the front and on the towers can still be seen today.
After World War II, the bakery was converted into the headquarters of the Admiralty Constabulary, also housing some offices and stores. It remained in use until British forces left Malta in 1979, and it was subsequently abandoned before reopening as the Malta Maritime Museum in 1992.
The visible part of the building is the clock tower, a typical element of provisioning facilities and shipyards. This particular clock tower is the oldest, between maritime outlets, in Malta. It has a nameplate with the name of the producer “Matthew Dutton of London” and the date “1810”, which actually precedes the construction of the bakery itself. The clock mechanism also has the inscription “Bro s Suban Malta 1896” embossed on various elements, indicating renovation work done.
The clock mechanism was originally made for a clock with four dials, but Scampi designed a tower with a clock from three sides, on the fourth side a large window was made, letting light into the clock platform.
Three bells ring for hours and a quarter of an hour; two quarters are dated 1810 and 1790. All the hour is marked with the British War Department – “broad arrow” (broad arrow). They were cast in Mears Foundry of London, and are the oldest British bells in Malta.
The Malta Maritime Museum collection contains over 20,000 exhibits located in rooms with a total area of over 2,000 m², which illustrate Malta’s maritime history. Ongoing renovation works are combined with the provision of new rooms and sections dedicated to specific marine topics or periods in history.
Maritime transport in antiquity
The antique shipping section has a small collection of models of antique ships, both commercial, such as the Roman grain ship, and war ships, such as the Greek trireme. Various watercolors of ancient ships were also exhibited. Presented several amphorae along with a collection of authentic Roman anchors the lead. All these items were recovered from Maltese territorial waters .
In the future, the museum will also include a 450 m² hall, in which the exhibition will be entirely devoted to shipping in the Mediterranean with emphasis on the waters around the Maltese islands in the prehistoric, classical and medieval periods..
Order period John
Maritime activity of the Order of St. Jana in the years 1530-1798 is strongly associated with Malta. This period is represented by a number of subjects. A small but important collection of authentic period models is exhibited. Some of them, originally belonging to the Congregazzione delle Galere and the maritime school of the Order, present the main elements of the religious fleet.
Main battle ships of the Order of St. At the beginning of the 18th century, Jan represents a mezza-galley exhibition from the end of the 18th century and a full galley model. Two large models of a III-rank ship (64–74 guns) from the 18th century, once belonging to the naval school of the Order, document a squadron of liner ships introduced in 1702 by Grand Master Ramon Perellos y Roccaful (1697–1720) to increase the gallery squadron.
Several oil paintings, watercolors and engravings from the 16th to 18th century illustrate naval battles, campaigns and other important events of the Order. One of the most magnificent paintings is the view of the Valletta marina, which is full of details about aspects of Maltese maritime trade, seen by an anonymous painter from the mid-eighteenth century.
A small selection of melee weapons, light firearms and cannons used on the Order’s ships is presented. Sights used by gunners of the Order are also exhibited .
The exhibition depicting the French transition period (1798-1800) is located between the hall of the Order of St. Jana and the British exhibition hall. Two large French cannons, a wooden model of the French warship Bucentaure, period weapons, watercolors, engravings and lithographs, including portraits, illustrate these two thrilling years. Among the portraits are two badges from the era: one ceramic, made in Sèvres, depicting Napoleon, and the second – jasper ‘s “Wedgwood” the (.) With the profile of Horatio Nelson .
The British period in Malta (1798-1979) is documented with various paintings, watercolors, graphics, period models, uniforms and lots of different artifacts. The hall is divided into different sections, illustrating the role of the Royal Navy in Malta and its importance for Malta and the Maltese.
The extensive gallery is dedicated to the nearly 200-year presence of the Royal Navy in Malta: from a portrait of Sir Alexander Ballel, one of the admirals Nelson, who in 1798-1800 helped the Maltese get rid of the French, and became the first Commissioner of Malta, to the uniform, documents and photographs of the admiral Sir Nigel Cecil, last commander of the British forces in Malta (1975–1979).
The navy’s medical service, the “backbone” of the Royal Navy in Malta, is best represented by the original model of the British Navy hospital architect, Bighi, dated 1829.
The shipyard section presents various tools and original docks, photographs from the period showing the construction of various docks and the breakwater. Right at sea is represented by a silver paddle model with the Vice Admiralty Court coat of arms and seals, and by several published books and documents on piracy. The evolution of underwater diving is shown by examples of diving equipment with a Siebe Gorman diver’s helmet, including air pumps, suits, helmets and communication systems from the 1920s.
A small part of the museum uniforms collection is presented. One of such uniforms is the so-called “No. 5”, 1 April 1979 carried on board HMS “London”, When the last ship left Malta at the time of the liquidation of the British base, which also officially ended the presence of the Royal Navy in Malta.
Portraits and models of Royal Navy ships, from the end of the 18th century, document exciting changes in the design and propulsion of ships. The exhibition of over 250 miniature models illustrates the evolution of Royal Navy ships from the eighteenth-century 1st rank (over 100 guns) to modern nuclear-powered submarines. Several British, Italian and Maltese painters and seafarers documented some of the most famous ships at the time.
British bayonet weapons, firearms and rifles from various periods are also shown. The mid-pmen knife from around 1775 is probably the oldest weapon on display. Also presented several cutlasses (ang. Cutlass), including examples of “eights”. The service pistol and other types of pistols complete the collection. The main exhibit of the collection is the prototype caronade from the 1860s .
The history of British rule in Malta ends with a section devoted to the role of Malta during World Wars, when during the First War she was called a “nurse of the Mediterranean”, during the latter she had a hard time to finally, after the success of Il-Konvoj ta ‘Santa Marija receive the honorable title of ” unsinkable aircraft carrier. ” The Ohio tanker model is the pride of this part of the exhibition.
Navigation and communication at sea
The museum has a small but important collection of navigational instruments, with items from the 17th century. The unique complete nocturnal from 1574 is the centerpiece of this collection, along with navigation instruments made in Malta. The exhibition also includes portolans from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Another important section is devoted to communication at sea between ships and land, and ships with each other. This section presents various original signal textbooks from the 18th century .
The Maltese customs office played – and continues to play – an important role in the Maltese maritime economy. To date, over 90 percent of Malta’s imports and exports are still made by sea. The story about customs in Malta is told through original items that once concerned the institution. The exhibition includes official standard weights and measures used by the Maltese customs, the oldest are from the beginning of the 18th century, they are marked with the coat of arms of Grand Master Vilhena (1722-1736). The weights and measures that were used on the Maltese islands had to be calibrated using these official standard measures and weights, all appropriately marked with successive marks of the Grand Master .
In a small room there is an exhibition about the port police (called Marine Police). This autonomous unit has been początkuh the twentieth century connected with the police Maltese (ang.). The exhibition includes the Marine Police Corp uniform and a lifebuoy from before World War II, with the inscription “Malta Police”.
Traditional Maltese boats
Traditional Maltese boat models, tools and paintings form the basis of a small exhibition dedicated to colorful Maltese boats. The museum has a collection of over 40 full-size Maltese boats, which currently cannot be exhibited due to the lack of renovated places. The models talk about each type of traditional Maltese boat, their use and application, such as kajjik and fregatina, and the evolution of certain types, such as dgħajsa.
The exhibition also has almost forgotten boat types, such as tal-Latini and ferilla – just like the models of the now completely forgotten major boat types, such as speronara and the governor’s gondola. Tools for building boats and ships are exhibited, along with a whole set of master forms for building traditional Maltese frigate.
In addition to these models, some ex-voto paintings are exhibited, which tell about the faith of the Maltese sailor, and his devotion to God, Mother of God and other saints .
Currently, the museum has only the germ of an exhibition about the merchant fleet. The current exhibition focuses mainly on the commercial activities of shipyard workers in Malta, mainly until the mid-nineteenth century. Half of the models of some Maltese merchant ships are exhibited together with several models of other foreign merchant ships, and several images of ships, all are associated with Malta.
The ‘Sant’Antonio’ model is the most naive model presented in the museum; however, by the very fact that it was built by its own captain, it deserves to be exhibited. Although amateur-made, this merchant brigantine model illustrates the type of merchant ship that has disappeared from our seas.
Among the portraits of merchant ships from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is the Malta-based fleet of Gollcher sailing and steam ships, namely ‘L’Isle Adam’ and ‘Gleneagles’. The museum probably has the largest collection of portraits of ships from the early nineteenth century by Nicholas Camilleri – a recognized Maltese painter-mariner .
Work is in progress to complete the graphic design of this large, over 600 m² room, intended for displaying the collection regarding the commercial fleet and customs service. The exhibited works will show the history of Maltese and foreign merchants who used the Maltese ports, from the time of the Order to the present day.
The maritime engineering hall is located on two levels. A working steam engine and auxiliary engines of the Anadrian dredger built in 1952 are exhibited at a lower level. Other items related to this ship are also presented, such as engine room tools, spare parts, documents, ship model and reconstruction of the wheelhouse equipped with all original navigation and steering systems. From 1954, the ship cleaned the Maltese ports of war debris and mules accumulated since the late 1930s.
On the upper level there is a collection of small internal engines from 1923, and various outboard engines from the 1950s. The history of ship propellers is based on the display of various bronze propellers, starting from the mid-nineteenth century. At this level you can find equipment for testing engines, as well as various auxiliary manuals, traditional Maltese boat models adapted for onboard and outboard engines, and various other models related to maritime engineering .
The museum also has an extensive collection of maritime themes, which can be used by both employees of the institution and people from outside. It also has, and regularly subscribes to, the world’s leading magazines on this subject; also has a collection of over 6,000 photographs.
Housed within the Old Naval bakery, the Malta Maritime Museum charts 7000 years of Malta’s maritime history, from prehistory to the present day. Numerous exhibited artefacts highlight the different epochs of the islands’ history and illustrate the global nature of seafaring and its impact on Maltese society. The museum manifests also the fascination of the sea within a Mediterranean context, without neglecting the overall global nature of seafaring.
Having started from scratch in 1988, with not even one single artefact, today the museum boasts a unique collection of over 20,000 artefacts belonging to Malta’s Maritime past. This collection was acquired by the constant search for, identification, and acquisition, of artefacts related to the museum’s mission. This task has been aided by the constant donations over these past years by the Maltese general public, foreign individuals, companies, corporate bodies, foreign maritime and naval museums, foreign navies, and Maltese and foreign Ambassadors and High Commissioners.
Visitors of this museum can nowadays enjoy some unique artefacts which include: the largest known roman anchor in the world, the earliest known ex-voto on the island, the largest ship model belonging to the Order of St John, the largest collection of cannons on the island, the Napoleonic figurehead of the 110 gun ship HMS Hibernia, a 1950s working marine steam engine, and a collection of more than 60 boats.
The site of today’s Fort St. Angelo was already a fort in Phoenician times. Thus, the antique objects typical of the Mediterranean are also exhibited in the museum. In addition to modern models of antique vehicles, amphorae, various lead anchor arms and a reconstruction of a Roman anchor are presented. These finds from the waters of the Maltese archipelago point to the importance of the route from Egypt to Rome past Malta for the grain supply. Of course, the topic is shipwreck (Acts 28.1–11 EU) of the apostle Paul on the Catholic island.
The period from 1530 is the first high point in Maltese history with the arrival of the Knights of St. John. A painting with the largest carrack of St. Anna around 1530 refers to this event. Two large ship models from the 18th century represent battleships of the Order Navy. Only in the Sanctuarium Museum in Żabbar is there another original model of a ship of the Order Navy.
A model in the frame construction in the exhibition is the only one of this type based on the model of the Navy Board models in Malta. The oldest railing gun is also uniquein Malta, which is shown alongside the usual bronze and cast iron cannons, handguns and naked weapons. While the Order Navy only used sailing ships in the past 100 years, galleys were always part of the fleet. The exhibition shows a replica gun emplacement on a galley, as well as different shapes and sizes of belt-driven vehicles and also grand master’s vehicles. Contemporary paintings and graphics show ships of the Mediterranean and battles against Muslim vehicles. This includes a number of ex voto, which were donated after surviving dangers at sea. Other topics include infrastructure (e.g. warehouses and port facilities), life on board and nautical science. The end of the navy came with the conquest of Malta by the Napoleonic troops in 1798. A model of prisoners of war of the Bucentaurs documented this time.
With the conquest of Malta in 1800 the British period began until 1979. During this period it was the most important base of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean after Gibraltar. In addition to the reconstruction of a British gun emplacement below the deck of a battleship from 1805 (the time of the Trafalgar sea battle), the exhibition also includes the many conversions in and on the Grand Harbor to meet the needs of the fleet.
This also includes the medical care of the members of the fleet that has been common in Europe since the time of the Knights of the Knights and exemplary in Europe. The three-ton figurehead on display at HMS Hibernia from 1804 shows the size of this triplaneas well as the long years of service (1855 to 1905) of the ship as a station ship in Malta. It significantly shaped the view of the port and was also one of the last sailing warships in Malta. Numerous documents commemorate the sinking of HMS Victoria in 1893, in which 358 people, including a number of Maltese, crashed.
A reenacting bar draws attention to the indirect influence of the presence of the Royal Navy in Malta. The portal cladding of a former pub with dining options from Sengleais the entrance to a room furnished with souvenirs, coat of arms plaques and historical photos, which gives the feeling for one of these former and widespread locations for seafarers in Malta. Numerous uniforms, equipment and everyday objects from the different epochs of the 19th and 20th centuries are available. In addition to the simple uniforms and clothing of the sailors, the admiral uniforms of the 19th century are particularly representative.
While Malta was regarded as The Nurse of the Mediterranean in the First World War and was spared from the actual course of the war, it experienced the so-called Second Siege in the Second World War. The port area and Senglea were particularly affected by the bombing. Around the Ohio model, these events are documented with footage, uniforms, and weapons.
The fact that the Luzzu was not the only domestic vehicle type in Malta can be found out in the modern models, which also illustrate boat building. In addition to the smaller types, there are also larger models such as galleys and ceremonial bars. Well-known types are the Schebecke, the Speronara and the Gozo boat. The Dgħajsa, Ferilla or Kajjik are less well known.
The development of navigation illustrates an extensive arsenal of measuring instruments, textbooks and manuscripts, nautical charts and paintings by navigators and pilots. The museum’s collection captivates with instruments from the 16th century and commemorates the early establishment of a navigation school as early as the 18th century.
Of course, maritime development did not stop with the withdrawal of the British. Machines, drive parts and accessories from modern vehicles are also shown in the Anadrian Hall. The exhibition adapts to the 19th century industrial architecture of the building.
The museum has a library, restoration workshops, depots and its own jetty with historical vehicles right in front of the museum.
Nowadays the museum is proud to showcase some unique artefacts including the largest known roman anchor in the world, the earliest known ex:voto on the island, the largest ship model belonging to the Order of St John, the largest collection of cannons on the island, the Napoleonic figure head of the 110 gun ship HMS Hibernia, a 1950s working marine steam engine, and a collection of 60+ boats.
The museum is open every day from 09:00 to 17:00, and it is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Good Friday.
The Malta Maritime Museum at the Marina Grande helps visitors chart 7,000 years of history under one roof.