It is a given that Malta's artistic and cultural heritage is unique in the Mediterranean and that, collectively, we Maltese carry the grave responsibility to restore, maintain and safeguard it.

The government has just announced a scheme whereby cultural donations of no less than Lm1,000 to cultural organisations and donations of at least Lm5,000 in cash for restoration works would be tax exempt.

The government ought to be commended. As also deserves praise, Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi who had mooted the idea in Parliament back in September 2004. He had then spoken about the need to do some lateral or parallel thinking in heritage protection.

In other European countries, tax exemptions connected to art, heritage and culture have been in place for decades. Here too, no doubt, the incentive should prove successful and opportunities do exist. And how! Palazzo Falson, in Mdina, also known as the Norman House, is a case in point. For almost half a century this lovely residence, full of artistic treasures, was left to rot away. No doubt that when the Gollcher family left the Mdina Palazzo and Villa Brunswick, in Mgarr, to the nation both were in pristine condition. As all good householders know only too well, houses need regular maintenance to remain in top condition. They also need to be lived or worked in. Of course, such initiatives cost money, and, thus, organisations undertaking such a task need all the help they can get.

Besides all the corporate bodies that regularly contribute thousands upon thousands of liri every year towards restoration projects and cultural activities, the incentive also encourages private individuals to contribute towards projects that will ensure our heritage is maintained to be enjoyed by future generations.

For many this is a new concept. It is taken for granted that, while philanthropy has elicited overwhelming response from us Maltese, contributions towards other projects like restoration have not yet become part of our psyche. A perusal of what makes great entities like the Louvre or Covent Garden tick will show an enormous amount of individuals who contribute towards their constant improvement on a regular basis.

This concept was introduced to Malta some years ago by Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti. With each and every publication by FPM, there is a page dedicated to those whose contribution has made the very survival of the foundation possible.

No doubt, this new tax concession will encourage even more people to put their money where their mouth is to ensure that a tour de force like the restoration of Palazzo Falson can be undertaken on a regular basis.

Miranda Publication's latest in the series of 360-degree books is Museums of Malta. It is astounding how many there are. There are also as many privately-owned as state-owned and all deserve the public's support. All of them need to be updated, collections enriched and their settings enhanced. It is not only museums but also parish churches that are for the most part living museums that require intelligent and researched restoration and maintenance.

Although we have come a long way in the last 30 years there is still a great deal to be done to ensure that future generations will be handed down a heritage that is in pristine condition. We live in what Andrè Malraux could describe as a Museum Without Walls and our responsibility towards the patrimony left to us by our forefathers is a huge responsibility that we must all strive to shoulder in some way.

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