Walking along the bastions in Valletta, the curious observer will wonder what lies behind and beneath small apertures in the city’s walls.
Thanks to Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna, yet more of Valletta which is not immediately visible will be revealed to the public, after renovation works on the Saluting Battery and the Lascaris War Rooms Heritage Park were launched by FWA at the Upper Barrakka in Valletta on Saturday.
During the launch, project manager Mario Farrugia described the Heritage Park as a constellation of individual but interconnected attractions which would offer a combined visitor experience that woul include hands-on facilities, direct guiding, historical re-enactments and multimedia.
“Since it will probably take someone a day or more to visit all of the attractions, it will be possible for visitors to keep their tickets so they can come back at a later date,” Mr Farrugia said.
The Heritage Park encompasses the Saluting Battery under the Upper Barrakka, the Garrison Church crypt, the St Peter and St Paul’s counterguard, the World War II war headquarters, the Nato war rooms and a large network of tunnels that started being dug during the war but were never completed.
The tunnels were intended to house the entire upper echelon of Maltese civil society during the war, even providing quarters for the Archbishop. “What is interesting is that work seems to have stopped abruptly. All the tools are still down there,” Mr Farrugia said.
The Garrison Church crypt, which will be the main entrance to the park, will house a museum dedicated to cannons, uniforms and other memorabilia. Since an important function of the saluting battery in days gone by was to keep time, an exhibition dedicated to time-keeping will be included.
Mr Farrugia added that the Cold War exhibition would be particularly interesting, since not much is known by the public about Malta’s role during the period, which lasted from 1945 to 1977.
Moving on to the Saluting Battery, soldiers in period uniforms cleaned the cannons in preparation for the noonday salute. Mr Farrugia explained how, due to the popularity of the daily salute among tourists, the original 32-pounder smoothbore cannons had been replaced with replicas costing €350,000 to avoid damaging the originals.
“We want visitors to feel like they’ve gone back in time to 1940,” Mr Farrugia concluded.
The works are part of the Renewed Visitor Venues – Revive Project, co-financed by the European Union’s Regional Development Fund. The project will cost about €1.8 million and is scheduled to be completed in March.
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