It is with pleasure that I welcome delegates, speakers, and guests to this conference which I am hosting here at Sant’Anton Palace. I also specifically welcome the recently established Industrial Heritage Platform at the University of Malta which is the organizer of this conference. Allow me to express my hearty congratulations for yet another initiative to protect Malta’s multifaceted cultural heritage with a focus on Malta’s industrial heritage and its wide appreciation.
Let me reiterate what we, all of us present here, know too well. It is an accepted fact that industrial heritage has been largely neglected in Malta. May I add, for far too long.
There is no question that industrial heritage stands for our history and heritage for these last 200 years. It has shaped our cultural landscape in indelible ways, oftentimes informed by function and purpose. As part of the wider spectrum of our cultural heritage, it too, defines who we are.
There are indeed challenges that have to be addressed, that are anything but simple and straightforward to handle. Sheer size, loss of original purpose, and contemporary use are some of the facets, out of a broader picture, of a more complex cultural heritage landscape, that are admittedly not easy to reconcile with possibilities and meaningful action. The challenges are undoubtedly there. Loud and clear. Irrespective of whether this happens intentionally or coincidentally, with relative or no value assigned, with no awareness and appreciation of its intrinsic and historical relevance and significance, we continue to lose bits and pieces of what defines us as a nation.
Throughout my Presidency, I have given and continue to give voice to cultural heritage platforms and non-governmental organisations working in the sector, not only to discuss and debate, but also to come together to commit to meaningful action inspired by the need for systemic change in the ways and means how we value and manage our cultural heritage assets. The recently established Industrial Heritage Platform we are celebrating today, is one such organisation.
It is indeed commendable that this conference seeks to explore current challenges in industrial heritage conservation, preservation in situ, and possibly adaptive reuse in Malta. I firmly believe that such conferences should not just be an occasional encounter to discuss and debate amongst peers. Discussion and exchanges are of course necessary, as are conversations about the issues and the challenges. However, a clearer understanding of what the possibilities are, or might look like, is perhaps the fundamental outcome one should strive for in such conferences and initiatives.
My sincere wish for this event too is that it will prove to be an occasion for debate, and focus on the possibilities ahead, on the ways and means how meaning and relevance to this as yet ignored facet of our cultural heritage can be assigned, and also to acquire a better understanding of the heritage management infrastructure that the country needs to develop.
I wish to all of us present, that this conference will be the right platform to give the opportunity to discuss and debate what can be done, what needs to be done, and how this shall be done.