“Melitensia” refers to the study of Maltese things, or to a special section of an academic library that collects books and other printed matter on Maltese culture, history, economy, politics, geography, and so on. Being highly eclectic, it brings together assorted subjects on the basis of their national, territorial, or even diasporic identity. Yet Malteseness—like Englishness, Frenchness, and similar terms—is not a definite, indisputable entity, for it rests partially on the shaky foundations of inherited and hybrid conventions and artifacts.
Beyond its academic motivations, Melitensia provides amateur collectors with a geographically organized rationale for a devotion to antiquarian paraphernalia and books, mostly dealing with topics of history, heritage, and culture in the broad sense. In this wider context, popular ideas about uniqueness and authenticity also help to sustain a proud national imag- inary, built on a mixture of historical facts and fakes, tourist traps and paraphernalia, kitsch souvenirs and national symbols, nationalistic reinterpretations and postcolonial myths.
Vintage tourist brochure published by the Phoenicia Hotel
St. Elmo Promo 6-03-13 11.55.17-1 (2). Re-enactment scene, Malta. Courtesy Malta Tourism Authority
Photo: Stefan Vella.
Souvenir shop in Malta, 2010.
Photo: Bettina Hutschek
Playmobil figurine of Grandmaster of the Knights of Malta, postcard and Maltese toy bus modeled after buses running until 2015. The worldwide production of Playmobil figurines is based in Malta.
Photo: Alexandra Pace.