Rare 1917 schoolroom photograph


Wandana Schoolroom, 1917. Silver gelatine photograph, 21 x 16cm, held by Ceduna School Museum. Digital copy held by ANME courtesy of the Ceduna School Museum.

This  rare black and white photograph of the interior of Wandana schoolroom taken in 1917 is held by Ceduna School Museum, South Australia. The museum kindly supplied a digital copy to the Director on his recent visit. This image is highly significant because photographs of schoolroom interiors at an early date are very rare.

The Wandana Schoolroom was originally sited about 5 miles east of Ceduna on the Streaky Bay Road before it was relocated to the Ceduna School Museum.

The photograph is striking for the detail it reveals of teaching at the time. Banner posters were a highly portable teaching aid and these are everywhere evident. They are hung on the walls,  including one showing ‘The Theatre of War’ in  map form. There are other reminders of the Great War, like the flags of the Allies strung across the ceiling (that of Japan is visible).  There are charts referring to ‘Parsing’, a kind of grammatical analysis, and charts of wind and weather observations.  Various pictures are pinned to the timber boards cladding the walls.  Other banner posters are rolled up in various places. The children sit on long seats known as ‘forms’.  Children might have been grouped by age and ‘form’ (hence the use of this term to mean a class).

The class is small, reflecting an isolated coastal population and a provision for a range of boys of various ages. The children appear healthy. This indoor photograph would have required them to sit still for perhaps 30 seconds..

An important detail of the image is that the teacher has been identified as Miss Edith Lee, later Mrs Hawke, mother of Robert Lee Hawke, Prime Minister of Australia 1980-19988.

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