Opening speech by His Excellency George Vella, President of Malta, on the occasion of the seminar organised by the Malta Map Society in commemoration of its 10th anniversary since its foundation: IMAGO MELITAE 2019 23 November 2019, Sant’ Anton Palace

Dr Albert Ganado, President of the Malta Map Society

Ms Bernardine Scicluna, Chairperson

Distinguished guests

I am aware that many of you travelled from afar to attend this auspicious event and it is a pleasure for me to open this auspicious event.

As we all know, Dr Ganado is the doyen in the study and knowledge of Maltese cartography, and his long years of study on antique maps, apart from his extensive publications on Maltese history, art, legislation, politics and philately, has earned him also international acclaim and recognition, culminating in the prestigious Helen Wallis award by the international map collectors society for his high contribution to the history of cartography in 2011. And yet when he was already in his mid-eighties, he decided to lay the foundations of the new Malta Map Society to ensure that interest in the study of Maltese cartography remains alive and continues to prosper.

Nowadays there is the misconception that with the introduction of google maps and the use of the GPS, conventional maps printed on paper are no longer needed. Indeed these web-based services do provide very detailed and very accurate information about geographical regions and sites around the world. They are also interactive and have proved to be very popular when travelling. However the biggest handicap in these systems is that they depend on the usability of the hardware and on power and internet connection.

If conventional paper-based maps are no longer necessary, what use is there to study antique obsolete maps? But maps reach more than geographical education. They encompass history, information on climates, crops, trade, military information, notations, dedication, as well as images of dwellings, peoples, animals, and all sorts of oddities.

Giacomo Gastaldi (c.1500-1566) the Italian cartographer, astronomer and engineer of the 16th century, called it ‘cartography and curiosity’. And this is perhaps the most important role that the Malta Map Society has been fulfilling during these last 10 years. with their activities and with the publications which they have produced, they have shown how rich Malta is when it comes to cartography since new maps are continually being discovered and have shown that maps are primary sources of information which enrich our knowledge of the history of our island archipelago to satisfy the curiosity of everyone, and not just academics.

I hope that the Malta Map Society grows from strength to strength over the years. I saw from the programme that one of the speakers is a young graduate from the Geography Department of the university of Malta. This is highly recommendable as our efforts should also be directed to the young to be able to instil in them not only the love of cartography but also to teach them what distinguishes us from others and gives us our national identity.