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Lasers helping to conserve the past at Port Arthur


The historic Penitentiary at Port Arthur has been receiving some very high-tech attention this week, as the first step in ensuring its long-term survival.

Lasers are being used in order to develop a very precise and detailed computer model of the historic precinct.

Port Arthur Historic Site Archaeology Manager, Greg Jackman, says that the data collected will be used to both plan new conservation and interpretation works and to monitor the future condition of the buildings.

“This is the first step in the development of a master plan for the Penitentiary precinct, which is probably one of the most recognisable heritage sites in the country.

“The laser scanning will result in a very detailed and precise model of the buildings, which we can use to detect even very small amounts of movement or changes to the fabric.

“This is significant, given that the Penitentiary complex was constructed originally on reclaimed land. With the anticipated effects of climate change, we need early warnings of any impacts.”

Greg said that the model would also be invaluable in works being planned to eventually replace the aging steel support structure within the Penitentiary that both provides access for visitors and braces its walls.

“That support structure is around 30 years old and reaching the end of its useful life. The modelling will help us to envision and develop a new concept that will help to conserve the building and enhance the visitor experience.”

The scanning project is being carried out by engineering firm Sinclair Knight Mertz and will take most of the week. Disruptions to visitor access to the Penitentiary are being kept to a minimum.

Lasers helping to conserve the past at Port Arthur

The laser scans the interior of the Penitentiary

Lasers helping to conserve the past at Port Arthur

Rod Brumby, of engineering firm Sinclair Knight Mertz with the laser unit

Lasers helping to conserve the past at Port Arthur

According to Rod, the unit is more often used to survey mine sites rather than heritage structures