Two bone whistles dating back to the 18th century, both engraved with the Maltese cross, have been reunited by coincidence after their collectors loaned them out for an exhibition.

After being tucked away for centuries, the two rare sister-whistles, decorated using the same scrimshaw carving technique, can now be viewed at Palazzo Falson in Mdina.

The exhibition, organised by Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti, brings together over 160 whistles that range from toys and musical instruments to hunting devices and fertility symbols.

Made of clay, bone, silver or terracotta, the whistles display the creativity used by their makers from various continents and through the centuries. Some are shaped like animals, others like objects such as jugs or pistols while others are long or cone-shaped.

These pocket-size charms bring back childhood memories and fill the public with a sense of curiosity: what do they sound like?

While some emit a shrill note others offer a burst of varied sounds and effects depending on their shape, the material they are made of and the positioning of the perforations.

Visitors will be able to listen to their sound through an audio visual feature set up for the exhibition.

Exhibition curator Anna Borg Cardona said the oldest whistles are believed to date back to the Roman era.

She explained that she had always been interested in musical instruments and whistles are among the most basic of instruments. So, through the years, she built up her own little whistle collection.

Then, during a conversation with Palazzo Falson's curator Francesca Balzan, they thought of using the Palazzo's whistles as a starting point for an exhibition.

Ms Borg Cardina added her own, others were collected from other museums and some loaned by private collectors.

The exhibition, which runs till June 21, is one of a series of exhibitions organised by Palazzo Falson to highlight its artefact collections.


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