The President of Malta

Address by H.E. George Vella, President of the Republic at the Museums Conference

Monday 18 October 2021

Spazju Kreattiv – The Malta Centre for Creativity, St James Cavalier, Valletta

Dear participants and guests,

It is my pleasure and honour to be inaugurating this University of Malta international conference that has long been waiting in the pipeline, marred by the mishaps of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I would like to thank Prof. Borg and Prof. Sandro Debono for their inaugural speeches and also Prof. Cacciattolo for taking me back to our medical practice days.

This three-day conference is happening at a time when the debate about museum futures is more than ever before ongoing and perhaps has never been taken forward with so much enthusiasm and commitment.

It gives me great satisfaction to see that this international gathering of museum managers and curators, researchers and students, start-ups and museum industry stakeholders, from all over the world, are meeting here in Malta to discuss and debate possible museum futures.

I would also like to extend my greetings to those of you who shall be following proceedings remotely from practically all over the world. Sandro Debono said from India, from Canada, Germany, United Kingdom – practically everywhere.

This is a very good opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of the University of Malta in spearheading innovative thinking and creating the right environment to do so in order to become an international player in this field.

It is perhaps the vocation of the University of Malta to lead such conversations locally. 

At the same time, it has its sight set on the international scene, not only because the times made such conversations even the more necessary and welcome, but also in response to systemic and constant change that our societies need to keep up with constantly, while reacting to and aspiring to keep pace with them.

COVID-19 has brought about seismic changes to our lives, some of which are, unfortunately, here to stay.

The institutions that serve our publics, and the public cultural spaces that welcome them, cannot remain aloof of these changes.   

There is much that this conference has ambitiously tried to deliver.

As museums navigate uncertain times, the conversations might be informed by the need for museums to change, to morph into genuinely democratic, inclusive, and polyphonic spaces for critical conversations about pasts and futures.

We could also question whether museums can ever be fully integrated within communities, acting as co-catalysts for radical changes informing and contributing to achieving better societies.

One other question that is constantly being asked is all about the ways and means how museums can promote social inclusion and contribute to a greater awareness of the natural environment, and be committed to support meaningful and significant action in response to climate change.

To this effect, I welcome the ways and means by which this conference positions itself at the intersection of theory and ideas at one end but also with its sight set on practical, pragmatic action.

We need to think and discuss. We need to conceive and conceptualise.

But we also have to act – oftentimes decisively too.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am addressing you today from what was once part of the complex impregnable fortifications at the entrance to our Capital City, that were built intentionally to protect the native population.

This is now functioning as Malta’s centre for creativity.

Such a drastic change might have been unthinkable in times of war.

Such an adaptation to modern and contemporary needs, that has transformed what was essentially part of a war complex to a cultural centre, holds lessons for us all to acknowledge.

Change is difficult, change is challenging but change is all about relevance for present and future generations.

As museum professionals, you owe actionable change to your publics and audiences.

May this conference contribute to the international conversations on museum futures in meaningful ways that can significantly contribute to a better world.  

I wish you every success.

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