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Treasures at Mission High Museum

by Tam Tran

Sometimes an era or institution is forgotten when not enough resources are available to collect and memorialize artifacts or stories from the past. This is not the case for Mission High School, whose rich history has been preserved in a museum located right inside the school.

The idea for the museum was initiated and eventually implemented by a group of volunteers in the Mission High School Alumni Association. This included Ted Scourkes and Walter Swan, who previously served as principal and teacher at the school, respectively, and now are active volunteers at the museum.

Tucked inside a rectangular room, the museums artifacts include antique school furniture and equipment, photographs, and yearbooks. Near the middle of the room is a scale model of Mission Dolores built by civil engineering and woodwork students in 1926 to commemorate the Citys sesquicentennial anniversary.

Many of the museums noteworthy memorabilia concern the schools well-known alumni, including writer Maya Angelou; former San Francisco Giants third baseman Alan Gallagher; former California governor and San Francisco mayor James Sunny Jim Rolph; and California State Senator Leland Yee. Some items were donated by alumni, including a gift by musician Carlos Santana of the original artwork from one of his albums.

Visitors to the museum may also have the opportunity to take a peek at the schools auditorium and two rarely seen murals, if they ask when they schedule a visit. The two-level, 1,700-seat auditorium doubled as a movie theater in the 1950s. While it is now used exclusively by the school, this grand hall still has most of the theaters original 1,700 folding wooden seats, a gold-leaf ceiling, and lamp chandeliers.

Many outsiders do not know about the schools two murals. They were painted by California artist Edith Hamlin, who was commissioned by the Works Progress Administrations Federal Art Project. The murals depict work and recreational activities at Mission Dolores in the early days. They were painted in a large room that was formerly the schools library and has since been converted to counseling offices.

Missing Mural

In the late 1930s, California artist Edith Hamlin was commissioned by the Works Progress Administrations Federal Art Project to create a series of murals for Mission High School. When the school underwent seismic retrofit in 1973, its three murals were removed and put in storage. Unfortunately, the one shown below was lost, and Mission High School is interested in recovering it.

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If you think you have seen this mural, please contact the Mission High School museum staff at 415.241.6240.

The two remaining murals can still be seen by appointment.

The Mission High School Museum is usually open to visitors on Thursday mornings during the academic school year. Reservations are required. To schedule a visit, please call 415.241.6240.

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Material of San Francisco City Guides. Please give credit to the author and SF City Guides if referenced or reproduced.