The Malta Independent, 3rd July 2008, by Annaliza Borg
The damaged roof of the 18th century Wignacourt Collegiate Museum in Rabat is being restored by the HSBC Cares for Malta’s Heritage Fund and the Vodafone Malta Foundation.

A total of e69,881 (Lm30,000) will be pooled by the two companies over three years. The restoration work at the museum, which displays historical paintings, sculptures and artefacts, was the idea of Mrs Gemma Mifsud Bonnici, chairperson of the Vodafone Malta Foundation and wife of former President Ugo Mifsud Bonnici.

The roof of the museum needed extensive repairs and restoration works after timber beams and other material deteriorated due to seepage of water and cracks in the deffun, the overlying protective system.

Following several expert inspections, a treatment had been carried out on the outer walls of the museum to fill the many cracks and open mortar joints through which water was seeping.

A further treatment will be carried out with the traditional lime-wash to stop water from seeping through the deffun mortar. The wooden beams will be repaired simultaneously.

The Wignacourt Collegiate Museum is listed by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) as a Grade One Building for its historical and architectural significance.

Standing right by St Paul’s grotto and the adjoining chapel, the museum served as centre for refugees, an infirmary, and a victory kitchen during World War II and as a government school after the war. In 1981 the building, which stands above a labyrinth of a 50-room air raid shelter and Punic Roman and early Christian catacombs, was officially opened as a church museum.

The very enthusiastic Curator of the Wignacourt Museum, Fr John Azzopardi said “The museum undergoes ongoing restoration works which come at a significant expense.” He expressed appreciation for the HSBC Cares for Malta’s Heritage Fund and the Vodafone Malta Foundation for their financial support in an endeavour to help contain the damage and carry out the necessary works.

“The Wignacourt Collegiate and its contents are an important listing in Malta’s heritage which the HSBC Cares for Malta’s Heritage Fund is committed to support for its preservation for future generations,” said HSBC’s Chief Executive Officer, Alan Richards. “I hope our efforts will set a role model for future restoration works,” said Mr Richards, aware that huge works remain to be done after the roof restoration process is over.

“The restoration of the museum’s roof proved to be a challenging job and its outstanding result will be benefited by the people of tomorrow,” said Mrs Mifsud Bonnici.