Nova Scotia

Sinclair Inn's hidden murals offer glimpse of Acadian past

Hidden murals in Canada's oldest surviving Acadian building may turn the walls of the museum into windows onto the past.

Museum staff need to raise $300K to reveal wall paintings from 1841 and make building safe for public

Ann Shaftel is studying the murals hidden under the layers of wallpaper in a room at the Sinclair Inn Museum. (Heritage Trust Nova Scotia)

Hidden murals in Canada's oldest surviving Acadian building may turn the walls of the museum into windows onto the past.

Wayne Morgan helps manage the Sinclair Inn Museum in Annapolis Royal, N.S. He says the building's hidden murals lie beneath layers of peeling wallpaper.

The building needs extensive work to restore the paintings and make its second floor safe for the public. He says when revealed, the artwork will tell them a lot about life at the time. 

"It tells us what was going on for things like wall decoration. One thing that we want to be able to do is restore and preserve the paintings in these rooms and let the public see what it was like in the nineteenth century," Morgan said.

But they also have to tackle "a whole variety" of safety issues to make the area safe for the public.  

Oldest surviving Acadian building in Canada

The parts of the murals that can be seen depict buildings and an arch. Morgan said experts believe the paintings were completed around 1841.

Ann Shaftel holds degrees in conservation and history and she's examining the murals.

"This is a significant find of national importance," she said.

"The Sinclair Inn is over 300 years old; it is the oldest surviving Acadian building in Canada. My research indicates that the wall murals hidden behind a century of wallpapers were likely painted about 175 years ago."

Morgan says the first evidence of the murals came in the 1990s, when the Annapolis Heritage Society bought the building. A leaky roof caused water damage and that peeled away some of the wallpaper. That revealed traces of the historic murals.  

Under the wallpaper of this second floor sitting room at the Sinclair Inn Museum there are painted wall murals that date back to 1841. (Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia)

The Canadian Conservation Institute inspected the building and confirmed that images were hidden under most of the wallpaper.

Museum staff are waiting on a report from the institute to determine exactly how much it will cost to make the second floor safe and protect the murals. Morgan says it'll cost around $300,000, money they'll raise through grants and donations.

Shaftel will give a presentation about the murals on Oct. 15 at Halifax's Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History. 

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