Oldest pharmacy becomes museum
The shelves in a room at the National Archives, in Rabat, are lined with old bottles of different shapes and sizes, many filled with coloured powder.
Most of the labels are faded, the names of the medicines inside rendered faint by the years. Among them is a bottle of Phenazone, which was used as a painkiller before aspirin was invented. There is also picric acid, a poisonous chemical.
The bottles are sharing the space with apothecary equip-ment, dating to a time when medicines were not easily manufactured but prepared by the pharmacist.
The recently-restored room once housed the oldest pharmacy in Malta, dating back to the late 16th century, the era of the knights, when it was part of the Santo Spirito Hospital. However, for the past two decades it was used as a store.
When Michael Bonnici retired from his job as a pharmacy technician, he decided to take over the small room.
"I enjoy carpentry and did the restoration works," the 65-year-old former MP said. He dug out his father's pharmacy logs and decades-old equipment, includ-ing a pill machine, which is sharing the shelf with a suppository mould and a cachets machine that used to turn bad-tasting powders into pills, coated with something sweet that would disguise the taste.
"This was before people would go to the pharmacist with a prescription and he could reach behind him and get a box of pills," Mr Bonnici said.
The pharmacist had to use different pieces of equipment to make the pills, weighing them with centigram weights, which are also exhibited in the pharmacy.
Mr Bonnici is appealing to other pharmacists who have old equipment or medicines to donate them to the National Archives.
Although the pharmacy is not open to the public since it is within the National Archives, Mr Bonnici said exceptions would be made for University students studying pharmacy who wanted to study the history of pharmacy.