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A Night At The Black River Academy Museum Takes You Back In Time

By Jake Levin

It's not easy for Georgia Brehm to pick her favorite exhibit at the Black River Academy Museum.

"That is a very hard question," said Brehm, the Director of the museum located in Ludlow, Vt.

It's a unique Richardsonian building in which the museum lies, one which was unoccupied for some 34 years in the middle of the 20th century. Black River Academy closed its doors in 1938 but in 1972, a number of alumni gathered together to begin a historical society/museum with one thing in mind: to preserve the ethnic and cultural heritage of the area.

The Academy itself has numerous historic alums, including a former president. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States, attended BRA, as well as John Garibaldi Sargent, who served as Attorney General under Coolidge. Ida Fuller, the first recipient of social security, is an alum, as is Abby Hemenway, the author of the Vermont Gazetteer. Paul Harris, who founded Rotary International, attended but did not graduate from the school.

With a roster that deep in terms of who's who, it's no surprise Brehm has trouble choosing just one exhibit at the museum as her favorite. So she listed off several on each of the building's three floors.

The first floor has a Victorian/American house containing a kitchen, dining room, parlor and bedroom, Brehm said, as well as artifacts from Coolidge's days as a schoolboy. Main Street Ludlow, circa 1900, features a blacksmith, doctor's office, barber shop and a general store.

The second floor is rich in Finnish culture in homage to the Finns of Vermont. Here, you'll see a farm and barn exhibit, as well as an educational program, Finnish Immigration to Vermont.

The third floor goes beyond the borders of Vermont, with military exhibits covering the Civil War, World War I and World War II, with expansion to include the Korean and Vietnam wars coming. You'll also find a one-room school house from the 1890s on the third floor, which is used for the "A Day in a One-Room School," Brehm said.

The Black River Academy Museum has a fundraiser coming up, the Night at the Museum Gala. Events include a silent auction, music and food, as well as a special "quest," Brehm said, which will take patrons throughout the entire museum.

To learn more about the museum, visit its website, www.bramvt.org.

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