Heritage Perth inviting public to National Archaeology Week event

Heritage Perth executive director Richard Offen outside the 159-year-old Perth Boys School.
Heritage Perth executive director Richard Offen outside the 159-year-old Perth Boys School.

HERITAGE Perth is inviting the public to dig into the city’s past with author Richard Offen to mark National Archaeology Week.

The ‘Dig into an Archaeological Lunchtime Liaison’ will show how stories of the city have been pieced together by the clues left behind.

Building archaeology reconstructs the history of a building or ruin, using observations and measurements of the structure to create a building time-line, which supplements and verifies available documentary evidence.

Offen, the executive director of Heritage Perth, will chart the history of the care of historic buildings and show how archaeology now plays a vital part in conservation at work.

He told Guardian Express that in the past the past there was no requirement for any archaeological work to be done before a new building was built, leading to the loss of much architectural history.

“You just have to move on and dig deeper,” he said.

“Most of Perth before 1829 was bush and lakes; there was potential to find evidence of the earliest human existence. The excavation for Elizabeth Quay was literally bringing things up.

“We do now get it and put together as much evidence as we can.”

Offen said a lot of evidence had been found as a result of the restructure of the old Treasury building on the corner St George’s Terrace and Barrack Street.

“The original building on the site was built basically as a parade ground and barracks for the 63rd Regiment that were brought over in 1829, just before Stirling.”

He said at the rear of the building, in what is now Petition, an arch from the 1840s that was part of the original guardhouse remains and is now a large window.

Offen described the historical work done above ground as “invaluable” to the effort to “piece together the history of a place”.

“The old Treasury building is a prime example of building archaeology… it was built in three or four sections, starting in 1875 right up ‘til the beginning of the 20th century, in different styles.”

He said sometimes important discoveries were made by chance.

“The old Perth Boys School was completed in 1858. When they took the floor up for termite repair they found all sorts of artefacts, pendants, marbles – things that had fallen through the gaps, you can piece together all sorts of history,” he said.

The free talk – ‘Conservation at Work’ – will be held at the City of Perth Library Auditorium, on May 25, 12.30pm-1.30pm.

Bookings via heritageperth.com are essential.