The initial initiatives to set up a National Archives for Malta were taken in 1971 with the setting up of Committee on the Preservation of public records chaired by Guze’ Cassar Pullicino. One year later a section housed at Casa Leone was opened up and started providing research facilities for the reading public. Initially the National Archives of Malta formed part of the Ministry for Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. A few months after its opening at Casa Leone, the archives was transferred to the Palace in Valletta. The officer in charge at that time was Architect Michael Ellul.
In January 1986, a Committee was set up by the Administrative Secretary to study practices of preservation and disposal of public records. A decision was taken to set up a proper National Archives with its main office at Rabat, in a historical building which was once the Santo Spirito Hospital. Extensive structural repairs and restoration works went into the project. The Banca Giuratale, in Mdina, was also identified as a second repository to house the records of the various Courts and Tribunals of the period of the Order of St. John, the French Occupation and the Early British Period.
Late in September 1987 work commenced on the transfer of records of the Courts of Justice from the Palace in Valletta to the Banca Giuratale in Mdina. The repository was inaugurated on 28 October 1988, and opened its doors for research soon after.
The transfer of the Palace Archives to Rabat was concluded on 28 July 1989. Dr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, then President of Malta presided over the official opening of the National Archives on 28 May 1994. The officer in charge at that time was Mr Joe Caruana.
The first legislation regulating the National Archives was Act IV, of 1990. At that time several initiatives were taken such as the publishing of the first catalogues on CD-ROM, the inauguration of an exhibition centre; the initiation of the annual public lecture and the newsletter; the setting up of a new cataloguing unit using ISAD (G) standards; and a new computer network. A UNESCO-sponsored regional archives conference was also held in 2002.
After its first ten years of operation the management of the National Archives felt that it could fulfil its mission much better if the structures and legal framework are updated. The Maltese Parliament approved a new Archives Act (V, 2005) that came into force on 1 September 2005. This act created for the first time the post of National Archivist which is occupied by Mr Charles J. Farrugia. It also restructured the National Archives as a government entity with a distinct legal personality.
During the last eighteen years we have managed to move into three refurbished premises in Rabat, Mdina and Rabat (Gozo). Our services have improved considerably. We are now focusing on records management in government and the challenge of preserving electronic records and archives. We have worked extensively on digitization of records, which material will in the coming months be available to the reading public.