In the fall of 1987, the Illinois School for the Deaf Alumni Association (ISDAA) came back to life in anticipation of the school’s 150th anniversary since it’s founding on February 23, 1839.

Then-superintendent Dr. Larry G. Stewart created committees for a grand gala as well as one toward creation of a museum to create a visual display of the school’s history. The committee did a campus-wide scouring inside all its buildings for anything and everything in connection to the school.

The Jacksonville Cultural Heritage Museum was in existence in the Main Building on the north wing of the second floor at this time. They were kind to allow us one room to show our displays regarding the school’s history. We had many small and a few large items readied and opened by the time of the summer alumni reunion in conjunction with the 150th anniversary celebration in 1989. It was a huge success!

We continued at this location from 1989 until 1992. The Main Building Renovation Project began, and items were placed in storage until 1994. The expansion was a blessing, as members of the Alumni Association, the Museum Curator, and the Museum Historian were NOT idle during the storage-hiatus! The ISDAA Museum items were returned into three rooms on the west side of the second floor of the Main Building. The result was an expansive collection of items representing ISD’s rich history. In May 1997, the museum had a special opening for the 1950-59 Class Reunion. Items continued to flow into the ISDAA Museum.

The summer of 1999 saw another move for the ISDAA Museum. The former Unit One/Thomas Officer Hall building became its new home and is where it remains today! The central portion of the old school-dormitory layout proved even better providing 12 rooms on the first floor and a Research Office in the basement near the ISD Alumni Association Office. Later, a large southwest room was acquired as the collection expanded.

Many ISD alumni dream of a building dedicated solely to the ISDAA Museum someday in honor of all who came before and who will come in future generations.

The museum has 12 rooms of distinctive displays on two floors. Visit the museum page, click here.