Getting people interested in cultural activities is no easy feat, Philippe Malgouyres says, noting that although Malta has made huge strides in highlighting the importance of art, change does not come overnight.

Mr Malgouyres, the chief curator of the Department of Art Objects at the Louvre Museum in Paris, worked closely with Heritage Malta when the National Museum of Archaeology hosted the exhibition of Grand Master Jean de Valette’s dagger.

Mr Malgouyres said that while the work being done by the local authorities on permanent collections and cultural sites was helping trigger people’s interest, a change in mentality took time.

Official figures show that the portion of the population claiming not to have frequented museums, art galleries, archaeological sites or historical monuments at least once in 2015 stood at 73.6%. The EU average is 57.3%.

People need to be made aware that when visiting a museum, they are standing in front of unique objects and not duplicates made of pixels

“It’s all very good, the work that is being done, but this will take its time. The adults of today, for instance, may not have been used to going to museums when they were at school. Now the younger generation visit museums, and so the habit will slowly come, for sure, but it does take time,” Mr Malgouyres said.

He is in charge of bronzes, ivories, hard stones, arms and armour at the Paris museum and specialises in Italian and Spanish art, mainly sculpture, decorative art, religious anthropology and devotional practices.

Jean de Valette’s daggerJean de Valette’s dagger

When attempting to attract visitors to museums and other sites, he deems it to be crucial to address the fact that many people are today constantly making use of technology, a trait even larger museums such as the Louvre at times struggle with.

“Many people visiting exhibitions and museums come and they don’t even look. Instead, they film with their mobile phones and are sometimes not even aware they are having a unique experience,” Mr Malgouyres said.

He stressed that people needed to be made aware that, when visiting a museum, they were standing in front of unique objects and not “duplicates made of pixels”.

And while the worrying trend seemed to have increased in recent years, he noted that this did not necessarily spell trouble if museums ensured that interactive features complemented the real displays.

“People know how to relate to this kind of medium now, so it will happen, and we don’t have to worry about that.

“What we have to worry about is when people go into, say, a Neolithic temple and they don’t realise that it is not a reconstruction of something,” Mr Malgouyres added.