Smyrna School District (Smyrna, DE)


Image of a long mural with figures walking on a landscape, towards the right

A conservation project involving murals created during the Works Projects Administration in the 1930s was undertaken in 2003 at the John Bassett Moore School in Smyrna, Delaware, restoring these murals that depicted scenes reflecting Delaware's life and culture. Photos courtesy of Smyrna School District

In Smyrna, Delaware, a small town of 6,000 people, history is being revisited, or more accurately, preserved. At the middle school, John Bassett Moore School, eight murals hang in the auditorium and library. Created in the 1930s by the Brandywine River School artists Walter Pyle, Jr., Stafford Good, and Edward Grant as part of the U.S. Work Projects Administration (WPA), these murals reflect Delaware's regional life and culture, depicting the shipping industry, scenes of agriculture, student activities, the heritage of Shakespeare in America, and a history of America that focuses on Delaware.

Photos courtesy of Smyrna School District

To ensure that the murals survive and are able to be viewed by more people, a preservation project has begun. With support from an NEA Heritage/Preservation grant of $10,000 in FY 2003, the Smyrna School District had the murals conserved at an off-site location while the middle school was being renovated. Two of the murals in the auditorium were covered by a streaky brown varnish, which was removed. The other six had a grayish coat of grime from approximately 70 years of exhibition, and scattered punctures and tears.

MBNA Corporation stored the murals free of charge in its climate-controlled warehouse while the restoration plans were developed. Senior art conservators from the University of Delaware's Art Conservation Department supervised the restoration of the murals while the renovation of the middle school was taking place. When the renovation was completed in December 2003, the murals were reinstalled in the school.

(From the 2003 NEA Annual Report)