Edgeworth David Museum seeks information on historic Department of Public Instruction Scale of Fees sign

TREASURE: Coalfields Local History Association secretary Lexie Matthews with the school fees sign at Sir Edgeworth David Memorial Museum. Picture: Krystal Sellars

TREASURE: Coalfields Local History Association secretary Lexie Matthews with the school fees sign at Sir Edgeworth David Memorial Museum. Picture: Krystal Sellars

A sign with possible origins in the 1800s was unearthed during the Sir Edgeworth David Memorial Museum's recent move to Abermain.

The sign states the Scale of Fees for the Department of Public Instruction, which is what the NSW Department of Education was known as from 1880 to 1915.

Located up high and partially hidden behind other signage at the museum's previous home in Kurri Kurri, the sign was uncovered during the move to Abermain and has captured the attention of museum volunteers.

"It's a treasure - it has really caught peoples' eye," Coalfields Local History Association secretary Lexie Matthews said.

Ms Matthews said the sign could possibly have come from the old Pokolbin School building, which was relocated to the grounds of Kurri Kurri High School in 1985 and was home to the museum until its recent move.

While some of the text is missing, it clearly states the fees for families, starting at threepence a week for families with one child, up to one shilling per week for families with four or more children at the school, to be paid to the teacher in charge every Friday.

"They talk about free education - but even in 1880 education wasn't free," Ms Matthews said.

"A shilling out of your pay would have been a lot of money in those days."

The sign has been given a prominent position at the new museum, and the volunteers hope visitors may be able to fill in a few of the gaps or provide more information about its history.

It is among hundreds of historic artifacts on show at the museum, which also houses a library, archives and research facilities.

The museum will hold an open day on Tuesday, April 20 as part of the Cessnock City Seniors Festival, coinciding with Heritage Week celebrations.

The museum is on the corner of Cessnock Road and Orange Street, Abermain, and is open every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 10am to 2pm and by appointment. Call 0409 452 555 or email coalfieldshistory@gmail.com for bookings.