The Notarial Archives - A Photographer's Inspiration

The advancement of humanity is inexorably linked to history. History is inexorably linked to time and time to memory. The manuscripts held at the Notarial Archives in Valletta on the Mediterranean Island of Malta, are unique bearers of a nation’s memory and identity spanning a period of over six centuries dating back to the time of the Order of the Knights of St. John. On the top floor of these Archives one finds the “Crying Room”, so called because within its walls one sadly finds severely damaged, historically important manuscripts blasted beyond recognition during the war in 1942. After the war, the left-over fragments were unceremoniously dumped into garbage bags and left in abandon. Sixty years later, Dr. Joan Abela, a very determined woman, together with a small group of volunteers, came across these fragments and had them stored in the “Crying Room”. These mangled, distorted and irreparable documents, although ‘saved’, were destined never to be looked at again. They lie in a state of stasis, buried in boxes, out of sight, their reason for being, finished. They were considered gone, of no real use to anyone anymore. Consequently, where there is such loss, memory is all one is left with. Where there is no memory, all that is left is consumed matter, in this case a historical residue with little or no reference. The photographer looks into the original purpose of these damaged documents and presents a narrative based on a dialogue of hope between the damaged documents and himself. It examines absence, presence and usefulness, and conceives and suggests alternative identities, a parallel existence, for these forgotten manuscripts through an artistic expression where history informs art, and art returns continuity to history by restoring time, memory and purpose.