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‘Gift from the past’: Century-old chalkboard mural unearthed at school

“We thought ‘This looks amazing’ … this was a gift from the past.”

The murals – which are faded in some sections but still clearly visible – include depictions of the Australian coat of arms and the British empire, drawings of a young blonde girl holding yellow lilies and, various flora and fauna including birds.

A drawing of the Australian coat of arms.

A drawing of the Australian coat of arms.Credit:Justin McManus

The coat of arms provides a guide of the art’s age. Before 1911, the coat of arms showed the emu with its leg angled upwards. In the mural, the emu’s leg is planted to the ground.

The classroom was built in 1910, meaning the drawings could be more than 100 years old.

The school’s principal said teachers were often taught chalkboard art at college in the first half of last century, and said he believed some of the school’s teachers were highly skilled artists

Mr deWacht said it was a mystery why the blackboard art was left there – one that the school’s students would be tasked with investigating.

A drawing of a girl holding lilies.

A drawing of a girl holding lilies.Credit:Justin McManus

Kew Primary School offers an International Baccalaureate and places a heavy focus on student inquiry and curiosity as a form of learning.

Students will work with artists to restore the drawings and determine who drew the murals and in what period. It’s hoped students will use the venture to delve into Australian history from last century.

Once the mural is restored and sealed, Mr deWacht hopes to overlay a digital whiteboard in front of the blackboard. When the whiteboard is in use the mural will be hidden, and when the whiteboard is turned off the original blackboard will be visible.

Birds on a tree branch.

Birds on a tree branch.Credit:Justin McManus

“We want to continue to build that rich history,” he said.

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