Staff preview the Separate Prison

August 7, 2008

Port Arthur Historic Site staff today had their first glimpse of the results of the eight months of works to conserve and re-interpret the Separate Prison.

One group of staff this morning made its way through the Prison even as other Site workers frantically put finishing touches to the work.

Admin Assistant Vicki Skeggs was struck by the way it looked.

“’Beautiful’ – I know that is not the right word to describe a prison but it truly is beautiful and just amazing and yet must have been very sad for the prisoners.

“The other thing that struck me was how much everyone involved in the works are just so very proud of the project and happy to tell you about. It’s great when staff are proud of the work they are completing?”

Resource Centre Manager Susan Hood agreed, saying that all involved on the Separate Prison Project have much to be proud of.

“For the first time we can see the cells and more importantly the exercise yards of one of Australia’s most significant heritage buildings as they would have looked during the convict period.”

Education Officer Sharyn Walters was stunned by the atmosphere that has been created with its vaulted ceilings, the stark white walls and meticulous details.

“I gained a greater sense of how overwhelming it must have been to be in solitary confinement in such an ordered, controlled environment. This place will certainly evoke a variety of responses from visitors from now on.”

The works undertaken to date represent the first stage of a four-stage project. Further stages will progress over the next few years.

Members of the Tasman Peninsula community have been invited to view the Prison and celebrate its reopening tomorrow afternoon (Friday 8 August), and an official reopening is being held late next week.

The Separate Prison will be open to visitors to the Historic Site from this Saturday, 9 August. Access to the Prison is included in the cost of Site entry.

The Separate Prison Conservation Project 2007-08 has been jointly funded by the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Water Resources through the National Heritage Investment Initiative and the Port Arthur Historic Site’s conservation program, which is supported by the State Government as well as by visitor fees.

Project Manager Jo Lyngcoln leads staff through the central hall

Project Manager Jo Lyngcoln leads staff through the central hall

Yvette Linden tries out a hammock in one of the dressed cells

Yvette Linden tries out a hammock in one of the dressed cells

A reproduction brass gong sits over the arch of each wing

A reproduction brass gong sits over the arch of each wing

Several cells in A wing have been dressed to show various aspects of the work and life of inmates

Several cells in A wing have been dressed to show various aspects of the work and life of inmates

A face mask and copy of the regulations hang in each cell

A face mask and copy of the regulations hang in each cell

Bedrolls, lamps and tables are just some of the fixtures especially reproduced for the project

Bedrolls, lamps and tables are just some of the fixtures especially reproduced for the project