Maltese urged to 'adopt a notary' in archive restoration scheme

Historian Joan Abela has called on the government to invest in the restoration of the island's paper heritage

Some of the restored works at the Notarial Archives
Some of the restored works at the Notarial Archives

The Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government, Owen Bonnici has appealed to the private sector and the general public to “adopt a notary” in a press conference held at the notarial archives this morning.

Far from rehoming unfortunate legal professionals, the “Adopt a Notary” scheme is in fact a method proposed by the Notarial Archives Resources Council (NARC) to fund the restoration of historical notarial records.

The scheme allows individuals to "adopt," or fund the restoration of, the entire works of a notary, particular volumes or even just one item.

Bonnici was inspecting the first fruits of this scheme – selected volumes from the records of Notary Bartholomeo Selvagii de Via, painstakingly restored by a team of volunteers led by historian Joan Abela.

The volumes restored span the period from August 1544 to September 1545 and had suffered “medium severity” damage from insects, water and compression. The restoration, sponsored by the Alf Mizzi Foundation at a cost of some €50,000, marks the first time this type of restoration has been privately sponsored.

Abela thanked the foundation, explaining that Notary Bartholomeo Selvagii de Via was the notary for the Knights of St. John from the time the Order was still based in Rhodes up till the first few decades of their stay in Birgu.  

"The government needs to invest in paper heritage," she said. Acknowledging the difficult nature of the work and prohibitive costs involved, Abela welcomed the scheme, hoping it would translate into "something Malta can be proud of and a lasting legacy for our children".

Bonnici spoke of his shock at the state in which he inherited the Notarial Archives in 2013 and was pleased with the progress so far. The Archives building itself, which houses 17,000 volumes of records, was in need of restoration, he noted, but said that the first priority was the restoration of the documents themselves.

Describing corporate social responsibility as crucial, Bonnici said that this scheme is another example of how the government and the private sector can collaborate for the good of the country. “These documents make us Maltese”, he said.

Julian Sammut, a Trustee of the Alf Mizzi Foundation, said that being able to assist in projects that will leave lasting good in Malta was a great honour and he hoped this intervention would pave the way for many other sponsors to follow suit.

Those who wish to obtain more information on how to sponsor a notary are invited to contact Joan Abela on [email protected]