The obligation to preserve underwater cultural heritage is a core principle of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. A key element of this obligation is a balance of scientific research, protection, and the promotion of responsible access to underwater cultural heritage sites. Such a balance requires the setting up of a network of communication between the tourism and heritage sectors on the one hand and the maritime and diving communities on the other hand. A variety of approaches have been developed to promote responsible access to underwater cultural heritage sites, and since the vast majority of the public does not dive, this also includes the development of virtual access. In Malta, maritime archaeology can be traced to humble and sporadic beginnings in the 1950s. The following decades brought a growing interest in diving activities and a rising number of diving schools and clubs. Whilst Malta has today established itself as a diving tourism destination, responsible access to underwater cultural heritage sites was not always entrenched in dive operations or institutionally recognized. The protection and management of underwater cultural heritage has recently been firmly established within Heritage Malta, the national agency for museums, conservations, and cultural heritage. This paper is intended to outline the trajectory of Malta’s underwater cultural heritage management and to present the innovative and state of the art public access system that is managed by the Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit within Heritage Malta.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited