"A museum? I came to Santa Barbara for
the sun, the surf, the dolphins, the view of the oil derricks."
Well, okay, but while you're there, take an hour or two for a walkabout
of the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum.
Easily found right downtown; while you're walking down State Street,
it's less than a block away at 21 West Anapamu. Don't even worry about
remembering that name; just turn when you see the State & A
restaurant, walking away from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art on the other
corner of State and Anapamu streets. It's only half a block down the street.
It's open from ten o'clock in the morning to four in the afternoon, and
admission is free (they won't accept a donation even if you try).
Inside you will find documents of historical interest in the areas
of government, science, literature, music, and others. Many of the permanent
exhibits will be documents you've heard of (excuse the
US-centricity), or related to them -- you'll probably
learn something new about it. There will also be a temporary exhibit
which changes every one to three months. (As of this writing, the
temporary exhibit is letters and documents written by or relating to
Juan and Eva Peron.) The permanent exhibits are actually
reproductions, the originals being preserved in the Karpeles Library (the
largest private collection of historical documents in the world).
The temporary exhibits are often original documents.
As an aside to this raison d'être, the museum also displays paintings
(not necessarily of a historical nature) from local artists, on a monthly rotation.
All of this is brought to you by David Karpeles. A one-time professor
of mathematics, he became very well-to-do in the real estate boom of the
1970s (remember Buy a house with no money down?). In 1978,
swimming in cash, he began acquiring important historical documents.
(I assume, but don't know for sure, that he had long had an interest
in history.) In 1983, he opened the first Karpeles Manuscript Library
Museum near his home in Montecito, CA, a ritzy enclave bordering
Santa Barbara. It was well received, but after comments that it was
not particularly accessible, he opened another one in Santa Barbara
in 1988 (on the former site of Oscar's nightclub). Since then, more have been opened around the country, and
there are now seven dotting the landscape.
The museums, in addition to being open to all comers every day,
arrange tours for schoolchildren, and in many schools around the
country, maintains a display case containing an historical reproduction,
which is changed every two months. The Santa Barbara museum (and
probably the others, though I don't know) also has an auditorium
which is available for public lectures, the only caveat being that
such lectures must be free to the public.
An assortment of what you might see there:
- The working copy of the Olive Branch Petition
The Olive Branch was a petition sent to King George
telling him, in so many words, you'd better be nicer to us
- The cover letter written by John Hancock to accompany the
Declaration of Independence
- The official transmittal by the state of Vermont indicating that
it had ratified the Bill of Rights, signed by Thomas Jefferson
as Secretary of State
- An essay in Einstein's hand describing to the
layman his theories of relativity; published in the London Times
and the New York Times in 1929
- A page of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro
and, just like they say, with no corrections or amendments
- The first draft of the poem America the Beautiful
- A bill of sale for the rights to perform Chopin's
Polonaise in A Flat Major
- Famous People
The Karpeles Manuscript Library
Dedicated to the Preservation of the Original Writings of the
Great Authors, Scientists, Philosophers, Statesmen, Sovereigns and Leaders
from All the Periods of World History
 There are Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums in
 I've always wondered how some of these things get found. I'm talking particularly about the
personal letters and such things, rather than the nation-building documents. I mean, if for some reason
I become very interesting to the people who will come later, they presumably will not be able to find some
of the things that I've written that have been very important in my life, simply because at the time that I
wrote them, who knew that our descendants would want them? My biography will be rather sparse. So that's why I started
P.S. If you visit one of these museums (especially as a result of reading this), please drop me a note about it. Thanks!