BRATTLEBORO -- The Austine School for the Deaf's most historic building now has its own history museum.
In celebration of Holton Hall's 100th anniversary, the Austine Alumni Association this weekend opened up the Holton Hall Heritage Museum on the third floor of the historic brick structure.
The museum celebrates both the school and the technologies that have allowed the deaf and hard of hearing to communicate.
"This is a very special day. This has been a dream of so many of us for a long time," said Alumni Association President Michael Carter through an interpreter during a tour through the museum Friday. "This is our history. This tells our story."
The Alumni Association has wanted to install the exhibits for public viewing for a number of years but has been unable to find the funding to complete the project. During that time various articles have been donated and stored until they were able to finally set the museum up.
The hallways are now lined with photographs and articles on the Austine School for the Deaf's history.
Inside the main room there are displays of hearing aids and educational tools that have been used through the years.
The museum also has old athletic uniforms and yearbooks, equipment from the school's printing press and art studios, and photographs.
There is even the famous piano that has been in Holton Hall for decades that allegedly has been played by a ghost, Carter said.
Reginald Simoneau, a member of the class of 1941, walked through the museum Friday and picked up a weathered newspaper article from when he was star on the Austine football team.
"I was strong and rough back then," he said.
Carter said the Alumni Association is still working on the details on when the museum will be open, but he said he hopes the exhibits are viewed by the Austine students and staff as well as the public.
The association hopes to have regular hours in the near future.
Austine School for the Deaf opened in 1912 with 16 students and most of the young institution's activities were centered around Holton Hall.
The students lived and had their classes in the building, and there was even a basketball court on the top floor.
Don Powers, a member of the class of 1967, came to the school in 1952 when he was five years old.
"Everything was in Holton Hall back in then," Powers said through an interpreter. "This was our school and our home and the bonds with this building are very strong."
Over the years the Austine school has expanded in all directions and there are new classrooms, offices and dormitories.
Holton Hall is still used, and has received a number of upgrades and energy efficiency improvements over the years.
Powers said it was important for Austine students to understand the school's long history and the new museum will give them a chance to see how far the school has come over the past century.
He said the new museum will also ensure that the photos and articles are preserved.
"If we weren't saving this it would be gone," he said. "These are precious items and now they are all here and it feels good."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer .com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279.