Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

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The Karpeles Manuscript Library is the world’s largest private collection of original manuscripts and documents.[1] The library was founded in 1983 by California real estate magnates David and Marsha Karpeles, with the goal of stimulating interest in learning, especially in children.[2][3] All of the Karpeles Manuscript Library services are free.[4]


To make the documents more accessible, there are several Karpeles museums across the US. Items are rotated between museums quarterly and each of the museums present a daily general exhibit and one or more special scheduled exhibits throughout the year. In addition, Karpeles is aggressively expanding the content of its website.[5] Each of the libraries is located in a historic building.

Buffalo, New York[edit]

In Buffalo, the Karpeles Museum consists of two separate buildings: (1) Porter Hall at 453 Porter Avenue at Jersey Street and Plymouth Avenue and (2) North Hall at 220 North Street at Elmwood Avenue. The Porter Hall was originally the Plymouth Methodist Church, while the North Hall was originally First Church of Christ, Scientist, built in 1911.

Charleston, SC location

Charleston, South Carolina[edit]

Karpeles Manuscript Museum in Charleston library is housed in a former Methodist church named St. James Chapel which was built in 1856. The building is in the Greek Revival style following the Corinthian order and was inspired by the Temple of Jupiter in Rome. During the Civil War Confederates used the building as a hospital and stored medical supplies there. Hurricane Hugo tore off the roof of the building and destroyed its interior on September 21, 1989. Following renovation, the building reopened on November 11, 1990.[6]

Duluth, Minnesota[edit]

The Duluth Museum 46°47′49″N 92°04′58″W / 46.79694°N 92.08278°W / 46.79694; -92.08278 at 902 East 1st Street was originally First Church of Christ, Scientist, built in 1912.[7] The Museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. The museum is closed Mondays and Holidays.[8]

Fort Wayne, Indiana[edit]

Fairfield Hall, Fort Wayne, is housed in the old Church of Christ Scientist building at 2410 Fairfield Avenue. The Fairfield museum houses a rotating collection of unique historical documents, old and ancient ship models, and Stone Hieroglyphs from the time of Moses.

Piqua Hall, Fort Wayne, is housed in a domed church built in 1917 as the First Church of God. It is located at 3039 Piqua Ave. The Piqua museum houses a rotating collection of unique historical maps throughout different parts of history and parts of the world.

Both Museums collection's calibre and breadth are the direct result of the efforts of David and Marsha Karpeles.

The Fort Wayne location provides an educational outreach program in the form of mini-museum displays that are set up in local school buildings and maintained by museum staff.

Jacksonville location

Jacksonville, Florida[edit]

The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Jacksonville is located in the former First Church of Christ, Scientist building, a 1921 neoclassical structure in the Springfield neighbourhood. Most residents have never even heard of, let alone visited, Karpeles, but many of their children have.[9] There is also an antique-book library, with volumes dating from the late 1800s, and a children's center. Admission to the museum is free. The library is open Monday through Saturday, from 10:00 am until 3:00 pm. It is closed on holidays.[10]

Newburgh, New York[edit]

The Karpeles in Newburgh, New York is located at 94 Broadway. It houses the Dona McPhillips Historical Painting Series which includes many portraits of famous Americans grouped together as "Founding Fathers", "Civil War Union", "Civil War Confederates", "Indian Heroes", "More Indian Heroes", "Pathfinders", "Texas", "Blacks", "Pioneers" and "Women".

Rock Island, Illinois[edit]

Rock Island location

The museum building in Rock Island was originally First Church of Christ, Scientist, built in 1896 in the Broadway Historic District. Chris Kelly is the interim director.[11]

St. Louis, Missouri[edit]

The St. Louis branch of the Karpeles Manuscript Library opened on August 1, 2015. St. Louis is the largest metropolitan area to host a Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum. The museum is located at 3524 Russell Boulevard very near to Grand Boulevard and across the street from Compton Hill Reservoir Park.[12]

The structure was built as the Third Christian Science Church and opened in 1911 (it had been occupied in later decades by The New Paradise Missionary Baptist Church). The St. Louis Media History Foundation's Archives Exhibit Room is also housed in the building.[12]

Santa Barbara, California[edit]

The world's largest private holding of important original documents and manuscripts is located at 21 W. Anapamu St. Santa Barbara CA 93101. The Library is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 12:00 pm until 4:00 pm.[13] Admission is free.

Shreveport, Louisiana[edit]

The Karpeles Manuscript Library in Shreveport at 3201 Centenary Avenue was originally First Church of Christ, Scientist. Admission to the Library is free. It is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. The museum is closed Mondays and holidays.[14]

Tacoma, Washington[edit]

The Karpeles Manuscript Museum in Tacoma, Washington is located at 407 South G Street, across the street from the Wright Park Arboretum.

Examples of documents from the collection[edit]





Political history[edit]



  • Pat Burger Homeless Exhibit Collection
  • Dona McPhillips Historical Exhibit Collection
  • Norman Rockwell pencil drafts Exhibit Collection
  • The Brock Brothers Illustration Archive
  • Classic Book Illustrations

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • LA Times, "Worth more than the paper it's printed on", February 15, 2004.
  • Nicholas A. Basbanes, A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, Henry Holt, New York, 1995, pp. 437–444.

External links[edit]