‘AtoM’ is an acronym for “Access to Memory”: is an open source archival description tool developed by the International Council on Archives ('ICA'). ICA-AtoM is multi-lingual and provides public and institutional access to the holdings of archival repositories.

Why ICA-AtoM?

  • is a free and open source software; 
  • the database would be online, accessible from our website and searchable on internet;
  • it was based on the ICA descriptive standards and provided the opportunity to bring our documentation up to that standard;
  • it facilitated multiple repositories​.

Researchers can find in this software information about Fonds and Items: biographical history of record’s creator, description of scope and content, physical characteristic, languages of the record, general notes and in some case also the digital format of the documents.

Click here to search our online collections​

What is the difference between an archive and a library?

Although both are concerned with managing information, the occupation of archivist is quite distinct from that of librarian. The two occupations have separate courses of training, adhere to separate and distinct principles, and are represented by separate professional organisations.

Archives differ from libraries in the way that libraries hold published material (books and other printed publications), and archives hold published and unpublished material, in any format, which sometimes includes objects as well. The purpose of a library is to make material available to people, and access to publications is available through visiting the library, checking items out and reading them at home, or online. When a book is lost or has deteriorated, it is replaceable. An archive makes material available for research, but the material within an archive is rare and unique, and therefore cannot be replaced if it is lost or damaged. For this reason, archivists strive to protect and preserve their collections for current and future research, which means that there are stricter guidelines in place for accessing material. Original archival material is never taken home, for example, and some items may be unavailable for viewing in the search room if they are very fragile or unsorted/uncatalogued. Unlike in a library, digital copies (surrogates) or facsimiles may be substituted for the original.


Below is a list of the general differences between an archive and a library*:




Unpublished materials e.g. records, letters, diaries, posters

Published materials e.g. books, periodicals

Request materials from staff

Browse & retrieve materials yourself

Unique materials

Individual items

Collections of materials

Items with covers

Boxes and folders

Organised by subject and genre (facilitates browsing)

Organised by creator (keeps materials in context)

Every item has a brief catalogue record

Descriptions can be none, brief, or in-depth

Multiple copies exist

Materials irreplaceable

Lost or damaged items can be replaced

Must view items onsite

Can borrow materials

Higher security

Lower security


*University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries


There is much overlap between archives and libraries, as an archive may form a section of a library e.g. “Special Collections” (common in academic/university libraries), some archives contain small reference libraries, and some public archive and library services in cities are combined e.g. Liverpool Record Office, which is held within the Central Library & Archive.  


What are catalogues and why are they important?


Archives need to document their collections, and cataloguing is a major part of that. A catalogue is a finding aid: a tool that is used by both archivists and researchers to know what is in the archive, what condition it is in, how it relates to other material within the archive, and (for archivists) where it is located and its conservation/preservation needs. A complete, detailed catalogue includes contextual information on a record’s creator, such as a biographical history if it is an individual, and may also include information on where the records were before they arrived at that particular archive. Accurate descriptions allow a researcher to quickly identify which records they would like to view, and, as each catalogued item has its own unique reference number, citing records correctly is made much easier. 

Within an archive there are fonds. These are collections of records that have originated from the same source. At the National Archives there are 82 collections of records which have been created by the administration of Malta over approximately the last 500 years. Catalogues for these fonds exist in both paper format and electronic format. 

List of Fonds:
(Click on the below)
Legal Documentation Mdina​​

Gozo Section​​