Brattleboro, VT…. Brattleboro is home to many historic treasures, some large enough to grace the main street in town, others hidden gems that we need to seek out. The Estey Organ Museum is one of those pieces of history that is well worth a visit for many reasons. Tucked away in the company’s Old Engine House on Birge Street, it holds a century of local history that spread the Estey reputation far and wide.
The new season starts on May 21 in celebration of the museum’s 20th year and will be open to the public on Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. through October. It is unique in that unlike what we’re used to in most museums, the hosts in this museum say to all visitors—adults and children alike—please touch; please sit down and play the organs. Visitors even have the opportunity of walking through a pipe organ to see how the mechanism works.
“We want our visitors to have the experience of actually playing instruments that graced homes, churches, and concert halls around the world and to understand why so many people got so much enjoyment out of them,” said Dr. Dennis Waring, President of the Board of Trustees and author of Manufacturing the Muse: Estey Organs and Consumer Culture in Victorian America.
Besides the organs, the museum has a significant collection of music sheets, LP recordings, instructional books for amateur organists, catalogs, trade cards, advertising materials published by the company and photographs of the buildings and workforce. The catalogs are conveniently available for viewing and downloading at archive.org. Several books and other materials are for sale in the onsite shop.
“Although the Estey company is no longer manufacturing instruments, thousands of the organs are in collections and are still in use today,” Dr. Waring explained. “Our goal with the museum is to invite the public to enjoy and participate in this piece of living history.”