Dr. David Karpeles owns more than one million rare manuscripts and documents – the world’s largest collection of which he rotates around his 12 museums, all historical buildings of which carry his name. The Karpeles Manuscript Library Jacksonville Museum is located in a beautiful, 1921 neoclassical white-columned building that features Louis Comfort Tiffany windows. It is a Jacksonville gem and a national treasure.
Now 78, Karpeles, a trained mathematician, and wife, Marsha, are real estate magnates who understand the importance of culture. Their investment is a collaborative passion and love of the written word and what it conveys, the paper it is written on. Their efforts have resulted in the development of an internationally recognized personal collection of items of historical interest and value that are important to a worldwide audience of many disciplines. Both individuals focus doggedly on the history of every manuscript or item, as evidenced by their purchase of the documents of the Spanish Armada, which he bought, all 40,000 of them… at one time.
His rich national collection rotates throughout the year and includes original musical work, such as Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. The science collection includes Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and original Florence Nightingale papers. The religion collection includes the first printing of the Ten Commandments from the Gutenberg Bible. The literature collection includes Roget’s Thesaurus and Webster’s Dictionary. The political history collection includes the original draft of the Bill of Rights, John Hancock’s Cover Letter to the Declaration of Independence and George Washington’s signed Thanksgiving Proclamation. And artwork includes the Classic Book Illustrations – and the list goes on and on.
Regional Director Rick Minor says, “Our art exhibits run two months, six per year, rather than quarterly, and he has been long recognized as a great supporter of the culture community in Jacksonville, and supports its artists with one show per quarter. A resident of Springfield, he has a degree in fine arts and is passionate about his position with the museum. He networks preservation and historical societies to connect the Karpeles with the community’s cultural thread, and he coordinates remarkable and fun events at the Museum that create awareness of everything from steampunk to photography to sculpture to fine art.
“In addition to the art exhibits, I have also brought a variety of live music to the Karpeles, including avant-garde jazz, electronic, meditative and rock. We host the Annual China Cat Sunflower Festival every August, too,” says Minor.
The networking into the regional arts community is of importance to Minor. He has secured many significant local exhibits that have received national and international acclaim, some going on to Nantes, Paris, Panama, and London. His dedication to bring about awareness of local artists is key to the success of the museum. The community can visit at no charge and see exhibits and Karpeles collections. It’s a place for children to visit and behold some of the most important documents and manuscripts in the world, up-close-and-personal.
The Karpeles family, including their children, has given a voice to their collection, which embodies the people, places, and history of our world on so many levels. Each of the exhibits that come to Jacksonville – both from the collection and the local participating artist – is not to be missed. Admission is free to view the exhibits, including access to the Antique Book Library and children’s center. Hours of operation are 10am to 3pm, Tuesday through Friday, and Saturday from 10-4pm. Call 904-356-2992 or their website for more information. Take the time to visit the Karpeles. You will be amazed, and it will tweak your curiosity to learn more!