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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - Museum of Natural History

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Museum of Natural History

Vilhena Palace, St Publius Square, Mdina MDN 1010,| Tel: +356 21 455 951

Monday to Sunday: 9:00-17:00, Last admission: 16:30. The museum is closed on Good Friday, 24th, 25th and 31st December, 1st January .

Regular ticket (18 - 59 years):€5; Subsidised ticket: 12-17 years, senior Citizens (60+), Students 3.50; children (6 -11 years): €2,50. Children younger than 6 years of age may visit at no charge.

Multi Site Tickets:  Visit all the area museums in one day and save on the admission fee - Rabat - Mdina Multi Site Ticket: (Domus Romana, St Paul's Catacombs & National Museum of Natural History).  Adults (18 - 59 years): €12.00 Students (12 - 17 years), Senior Citizens (60 years and over), ISIC Card Holders, EURO<26 Card Holders, ISE Card Holders, ICOM Card Holders €9.00; Children (6 -11 years): €6.00; infants (1 -5 years): Free



Natural History Mdina

Palazzo Vilhena

Palazzo Vilhena, the majestic building that today houses the National Museum of Natural History was built in 1725 by Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena, on a location previously occupied by the Universita' – the seat of the islands' mediaeval governorship. The design of this palace was entrusted to Françoise de Mondion. Throughout its history Palazzo Vilhena served as Malta's Courts of Justice, as a cholera hospital in 1837, a medical facility for British soldiers, and later as a hospital for patients of tuberculosis until 1956. It re-opened as the National Museum of Natural History on 22nd June 1973.


The Exhibits

The exhibitions in this museum comprise collections of faunal specimens from diverse locations with emphasis on local biota, and an admirable collection of rocks from around the world.


Ground Floor

Past the introductory exhibition outlining the history of the Museum is a small yet significant collection of exotic mammals comprising marsupials, hyenas, primates (monkeys and apes) and a variety of large cats. On the same floor is an insect collection, notably coleopteran species (beetles) and lepidopterans (butterflies and moths). A small section displays accessories used in traditional apiculture (bee-keeping), Also on display are examples of alien species of insects (i.e. accidentally introduced into the local ecosystem, to its detriment) In a nearby collection – side by side – are the national bird of Malta, the Blue Rock Trush (Maltese: Merill) and the national plant, the Maltese rock centaury (Maltese: Widnet il-baħar) There is also an intricately carved elephant's tusk and sizable collections of stuffed birds and sea shells.


First Floor

On the landing on the first floor is a collection of ammonites, cephalopod molluscs distantly related to modern-day squids and octopuses, which became extinct in the cretaceous period. In the G. Zammit Maepel Halls are geological and palaeontological specimens with fossils of various types of molluscs (cephalopods, such as squids and octopuses; bivalves such as clams and mussels and gastropods – snails); starfish, and exotic animals that used to roam Malta when it was connected to the continent by a land-bridge – such as hippopotami and deer.

Several exhibits detail the geology of the Maltese islands with its layers of upper coralline limestone, greensands, blue clay, globigerina limestone and lower coralline limestone.

One of the more interesting items in the exhibition dealing with marine ecosystems is the vertebral column of an unidentified species of whale. Also in this collection are specimens of crustaceans (such as crabs and lobsters), a small hammerhead shark, rays, marine turtles and a swordfish.

In the room at the end of the corridor are displayed the skeletons of a range of vertebrates, including a sheep, a horse, an ostrich, an alligator, a cow and a pig. Human evolution is the theme of another room in this corridor: here is an upright human skeleton and skulls of various extinct hominids such as Homo erectus pekinensis, Homo habilis, and Australopithecus boisei. There is also the skull of a neanderthal man, and a reconstruction of his facial features.


Second Floor

In the Despott Hall on the second floor is a collection of birds' eggs and a very large collection of birds. A small section deals with the practice of bird hunting and includes a shotgun, leadshot cartridges and a pair of binoculars. The conchology section contains a large collection of shells from around the world. In the final hall are models of the small islands around Malta and specimens of their flora and fauna.



HagarQim in a nutshell

  • Built by Grandmaster Manoel de Vilhena in 1725.
  • Exhibits include invertebrates such as insects, molluscs and star-fish, birds, mammals, and extinct hominids. On display are also remains of exotic animals such as bears and deer that roamed the Maltese Islands when they were connected to mainland Europe in the geological past.