Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Duluth’s Very Own Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

left: Sign for the museum right out front of the Duluth location on 1st Street, which is right next store to St. Luke's.

By: Sam Elmquist

The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum can only be found in six states: They have two locations in New York, one in California, one in Washington, one in Florida, another in South Carolina and finally one in our very own Duluth, Minnesota. The museum was founded by David Karpeles, a Duluth native who graduated from Denfield High School. It was after he had moved away and founded a few other Karpeles museums that he decided to bring one back to his hometown.

The museums are committed to the preservation of original hand written drafts, letters, and documents from important persons in history, which are then kept as references for scholars and students. At their web site you can find their entire collection of manuscripts, including such things as the proposal draft of the Bill of Rights or the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.

Its address in Duluth is 902 E. 1st Street and it is open Thursday through Sunday from 12-4pm, always free of charge. Since Karpeles does not live in Duluth he leaves the museum responsibilities up to others. The director is Lee Fadden, the curator is his wife Karen Fadden, and the associate curator is Don Pinther. Right now at the museum they have an interesting collection of documents relative to Darwin and the Theory of Evolution.

The exhibit started in September and goes on through the rest of November and December. The museum is unique in the fact that all they exhibit are their preserved handwritten documents of Authors, Scientists, Philosophers, Statesmen, Sovereigns and Leaders from various periods in World History. Particularly for the Darwin exhibit, there are documents by Darwin and other scholars of his time concerning his discoveries in evolution and natural selection, including his grandfather’s early works in evolution.

The writings you see there are not purely limited to scientific works relating to Darwin and his theories, but also include personal letters of Darwin that talk about his thoughts concerning his critics and his inspirations. The location is small but filled with information and we are fortunate here in Duluth to have direct access to the Karpeles Museum and its wonderful exhibitions.

Check out their website for more information, not only regarding their manuscript collection, but their art collections, information about their other locations, programs that the museum offers, and links to other sites like the National Archives website (

left: Layout of one side of the exhibit, each display has an original handwritten document illuminated and described.