Emily McSkimming is Lead Heritage Consultant for Heritage 21 who have been engaged to help inform the planning and design of the future RPA campus

What is the role of a heritage consultant?
A heritage consultant has the privilege of providing guidance on the best practice management and conservation of our heritage assets for posterity. To do so, heritage professionals must mindfully consider and respond to both
the opportunities and limitations embodied within a site, continuously balancing contemporary functionality with significance imperatives.

What makes the RPA Hospital unique from a heritage lens?
The RPA Hospital is a recognisable site within Sydney’s cultural built heritage landscape and possesses a rich social significance. Since its opening in 1882, the site has been used continually as a leading medical, surgical and research institution, and it was the first hospital in Australia to be
established as a training facility. Materially, the hospital comprises several exemplary examples of Victorian and Federation architecture - namely the Victorian & Albert Pavilions and the Administration Building, which collectively present a landmark façade to Missenden Road.

Interestingly, the site also acts as a memorial, erected by Sydney residents, following the attempted assassination of H.R.H Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria. During a Royal tour in Sydney in 1868, an armed assailant attempted to assassinate the prince at a charity picnic at Clontarf Beach. This event caused public outrage and collective national embarrassment, triggering a sequence of events that would ultimately result in the construction of a hospital dedicated in the Prince’s honour.

What makes you excited to do the work you do?
I am one of those lucky people who get to do their favourite hobby as a job. I am excited by the mystery of historical buildings. I love the process of uncovering or deciphering heritage fabric to understand a building’s construction, unravel its history and situate its significance. From there,
I love to find practical and meaningful solutions for its long-term use and conservation. Ensuring the continued significance of a heritage place is the best means of safeguarding its future.

How will the rich history of RPA be realised in the redevelopment?
A historical building or site is not a static monument trapped in time. It is a living document which changes, expands, contracts or adapts to new requirements and historical contexts. This redevelopment project, which aims to ensure the ongoing utility and future relevance of the hospital, will create a new meaningful architectural layer of history to the site. Further, we
are involved in developing ways to communicate the meaning of the hospital to the public through graph displays, art displays and other interpretative media.

What is the importance of heritage conservation?
Built heritage and places of cultural significance enrich our everyday experience and the wellbeing of communities, anchoring our identity and connecting past with present. Heritage conservation ensures that the buildings and monuments that we have inherited and consider valuable
may be protected for generations to come. Ultimately, heritage listed assets belong to the community and we have a responsibility to protect them.

What are three words your family would use to describe you?
From my 7 year old daughter – “enjoyable”, loving and sassy.

What’s your favourite song to get you pumped for work?
Edge of Seventeen - Stevie Nicks

Last great TV show or movie you watched?
Just rewatched the Office (British version of course) for the thousandth time.

If you’re cooking dinner, what will everyone be eating?