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History

The necessity of a general archives for Gozo had been felt for ages. Actually, the Universitas Gaudisii – the medieval regional government of Gozo – did have a Gozo Archives; however, this had long become a thing of the past.

 
The issue of establishing a deposit for the records produced or received by Government entities in Gozo in the transaction of their affairs was brought up in many a formal and informal meeting. In 1960s, the Gozo Civic Council – established as a statutory government in 1961 – discussed the question on more than one occasion but nothing materialized. For many years, the issue went into hibernation with the result that thousands upon thousands of important documents were destroyed or lost.
 
The ball for the foundation of the Gozo Archives, the NAG – The National Archives (Gozo section) – was set rolling by the Honorable Anton Tabone, first Minister for Gozo, and Joseph Bezzina, a professional archivist. A new hall built adjacent to the Public Library of Gozo was earmarked for this deposit or archives.
 
The term archives designates the organized body of records produced or received by an entity in the transaction of its affairs and preserved by it, its successors or an authorized repository through extension of its original meaning as the repository for such material. The term National Archives refers to the deposit of records of a public nature that are no longer in use for the purpose of administration. The National Archives (Gozo Section) serves as a public record office of past and present official entities of the islands of Gozo and Comino whose records have survived the ravages of time.
 
The first archives in Gozo was kept, as already referred to, by the Universitas Gaudisii. This municipal body was founded around 1350 as a corporation defending local interests – at a time when Malta and Gozo were ruled by the Aragonese from Sicily. It was broadly similar to many town councils throughout the Mediterranean regions of the Latin West with a Hakem or Capitano della Verga assisted by four imhallfin or giurati and other officials. Its Council dealt with numerous items of local business: it was responsible for the fortifications, the markets, and the hygiene of the town. It could elect its own officials, raise taxes, and petition the Crown.
 
The Universitas continued to function even after 1530, when Gozo with Malta, passed under the rule of the Knights of Saint John. From 1550 onwards, it was headed by a knight designated Governor of Gozo and its responsibilities differed from time to time. When in 1800 Gozo with Malta passed under British rule, the role of the Universitas was greatly reduced. Its functions were severely curtailed when the office of Governor of Gozo was suppressed by the first British Governor on 15 October 1814. Through Proclamation IX of 30 December 1918, the Universitas was dissolved as from 1 January 1819.
 
These multiform activities of the Universitas resulted in the creation of a number of records from its very beginning. This fact is discernable from foreign sources as local records went lost in 1551. The earliest extant record in Gozo dates from 1560 and it is preserved in the most important section of the former Universitas archives: the registers Actorum et Negotiorum, acts and transactions of every sort and type. Other sections of its archives are described infra.
 
These important archives were, alas, transferred from one place to another several times and a large number were damaged or destroyed during relocation. Initially, they were preserved in the old Universitas building within the Citadel. In 1661, they were transferred from there to the Banca Giuratale in the centre of Rabat. When the Banca was pulled down to make way for a new building, the documents were moved elsewhere. They were transferred to the rebuilt Banca in 1733. In 1819, these rich archives was taken over by the British and stored in the most inappropriate places within the Banca. Early in twentieth century, they were dumped inside a cellar in the Gozo’s Commissioners Office in the middle of Republic Street, Rabat.
 
In December 1952, the volumes that survived were transferred to the Gozo Public Library, where they were catalogued for the first time. This cataloguing had to be done anew as it was found out that several volumes were not in their appropriate section. Only 265 volumes survived.
 
The Universitas documents were transferred inside the premises of the Gozo Section of the National Archives on 1 August 1989. They form the core of these archives.
 

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Triq Vajrinġa 
Victoria-Gozo 
VCT 1313
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