Port Arthur’s Penitentiary is arguably one of Tasmania’s, even Australia’s, defining images, particularly in terms of tourism and heritage. In the promotion of tourism the Penitentiary is up there with Uluru, the Opera House, Cradle Mountain and Wineglass Bay.
A major conservation project for the Penitentiary is about to commence, with a contract for development of the first stage of the Penitentiary Precinct Conservation Project at the World Heritage-listed Port Arthur Historic Site.
Australian conservation architecture firm HPA Projects has been charged with the project, which will prepare the way for how the Penitentiary Precinct is conserved and interpreted into the future.
Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) Conservation Project Manager Jo Lyngcoln said the plan would result in some significant changes at the Penitentiary.
“The steel walkway through the centre of the building, which was installed in the 1970s, has reached the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced,” said Ms Lyngcoln.
“The plan will, in part, define what that replacement will look like, but it will do much more. It will also determine how the Penitentiary and surrounding area is interpreted or communicated to visitors; visually and through the various other interpretive media available to us today.”
Ms Lyngcoln said that while the project would be on a scale to match the conservation project undertaken at the Separate Prison at Port Arthur in recent years, it would be a very different approach as the Penitentiary is ruinous and some of its identified significance lies in that condition.
“The rebuilding of the walls of the Separate Prison was done to so that visitors could better read or interpret that building. The Penitentiary project will enhance the way visitors read and experience the building in what we hope and intend will be exciting, but subtle, ways that will not impact on the outward appearance of the building.”
This stage of the project which is the development of the concepts and planning approval is expected to be completed by April 2012 with the whole project likely to take a number of years with costs defined after completion of Stage 1.