Communications & Media

MS1 site represents cutting edge in interplay between archaeology and contemporary development

Medical science artefacts

A leading heritage consultant today [Wednesday 21 November] outlined what he called "a remarkable journey over the past six years", a painstaking journey back in time to the early days of Hobart Town.

Professor Richard Mackay flew from Sydney to anchor a public seminar called Building Colonial Histories: the Archaeology of the Medical Science 1 Site at 17 Liverpool Street.

His company, Godden Mackay Logan, played a prominent role in the archaeological investigation of the Medical Science 1 site, along with Hobart-based Parry Kostoglou of ArcTas.

"By any measure this project represents cutting edge in Australia, and arguably globally, for the interplay between historical archaeology and contemporary urban development," Prof Mackay told the seminar.

"What has been achieved at this site, unlike many others around the nation, is the ability to integrate the archaeological investigation, the retention of real fabric representing real history, with historical narrative, new architecture and a new use."

The staged excavation, which took place between 2006 and 2009, has revealed 19th-century dwellings that date from the early decades of white settlement, when this site was on the urban fringe.

It was home to some notable Hobart figures – appropriately a number of them doctors, including Sir Robert Officer, surgeon and parliamentarian, and Dr William Crowther, another surgeon.

"We’ve still got doctors hanging around here today," Prof Mackay joked.

MS1 is one of the few places in Hobart today where you can see the physical evidence – the foundations, the archaeology - apart from the standing buildings, he noted.

"Layers of history have been unearthed – paths and surfaces, landscape elements and yards, cobbles and brickwork – and rather a lot of artefacts and ecofacts [remnant vegetation and shells].’’

Archaeologist Dr Penny Crook, who also spoke at the seminar, said the artefacts uncovered totalled more than 36,000, dating from the 1820s to the 1960s.

They included an ornate Chinese ginger jar, a small pair of leather shoes and an 1835 fire-insurance plaque which would have been fixed to the façade of 53 Campbell Street, all of which can now be viewed by visitors to MS1.

"The excavation was undertaken progressively in conjunction with various demolition activities and the site extensively recorded," Prof Mackay explained. "Individual elements were identified for conservation, stabilised, where necessary protected with barriers or foundations, and then reburied.

"MS1 was redesigned – with changes to foundations and layout in order to accommodate the conservation and the display of the conserved archaeological material.

"What has been achieved at this site, unlike many others around the nation, is the ability to integrate the archaeological investigation, the retention of real fabric representing real history, with historical narrative, new architecture and a new use."

Other speakers today included Professor Allison Venn (Deputy Director, Menzies Research Institute Tasmania); Pete Smith (Director, Heritage Tasmania); Parry Kostoglou; Adrian Stanic (Director, Lyons, the MS1-MS2 architects) and heritage architect Graeme Corney.

Published on: 21 Nov 2012 8:22am