The National Museum of Natural History is situated in Mdina in an eighteenth century palace, restructured by Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, with plans by Charles Francois de Mondion in 1726. Vilhena Palace was designed in Parisian Baroque style, substituting the original building of the medieval University.
Vilhena Palace also served as a temporary hospital during the 1837 cholera outbreak, as a sanatorium for British troops in 1860 and as a hospital for tuberculosis patients in the early twentieth century. In 1973 it was officially inaugurated as the National Museum of Natural History. The main responsibility of the museum is the acquisition, collection and conservation of natural history material, with importance given to local biota.
The display areas in the museum cover various topics such as Maltese Geology and Palaeontology, exotic mammals, marine fauna, insects, shells and birds and other topics like human evolution. One hall is dedicated to skeletal anatomy of vertebrates, Dioramas that display Maltese habitats comprise, among others, one dedicated to birds of the Maltese cliff habitat, one depicting the importance of rubble walls and one showing the diversity of animals that frequent valleys. Another interesting display highlights the ecological importance of the islands of Filfla, Fungus Rock, St. Paul’s and Comino. The L. Mizzi Hall is dedicated to minerals. This display shows just a small part of Lewis Mizzi’s vast collection. It includes at least 850 pieces of rocks and minerals, with both raw material and worked pieces of art and jewellery.