ROCK ISLAND -- The hardwood floors of the 3,000-square-foot exhibit hall shone, the glass cases glistened, and the door of the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum was given a hearty workout Monday.
Day One of the museum, at 700 22nd St., saw a steady stream of patrons. Some were interested in the exhibit featuring the life and writings of Mark Twain, which will be on display through December.
Others came to check out the renovation of the building, built in 1914, that once housed a Christian Science Church. The large structure sat vacant for many years before being purchased by the Karpeles organization in 2011.
"A nice flow of people,'' said John Snow, museum director. "It's been an interesting day. Some came to enjoy the (Mark) Twain exhibit, but quite a few have come to see what we have done with the building. I believe they liked what they saw.''
Mr. Snow said the renovation process on the museum is ongoing.
"We have work left to do to get the second floor (sanctuary) in order,'' he said. "That phase-two portion of the renovation is ongoing. We're hoping to have that in place in the not-too-distant future.''
The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission is free.
The Mark Twain exhibit features manuscript writings; personal notes from Samuel L. Clemens, who used the pen name Mark Twain; and a pair of interesting sketches of Mr. Clemens by artist E.W. Kemble.
Also included is a rare sketch of a German soldier from the turn of the 20th century by Mr. Clemens. Apparently the gifted writer had a flare for art, for his depiction of the large-nosed, squinty-eyed German officer with enormous mutton-chop sideburns is dead-on.
"This is a wonderful start,'' Mr. Snow said. "There were trials and tribulations with getting things up and running, but we are pleased with where we are.''
Mr Snow said the second exhibit to grace the museum, which will open in January 2013, will be "detective'' themed.
The Karpeles organization has opened 12 museums throughout the United States. It is the world's largest private holding of important original manuscripts and documents.
The archives include manuscripts from the fields of literature, science, religion, history and art. Among the treasures are the original draft of the Bill of Rights of the United States, the original manuscript of "The Wedding March," Albert Einstein's description of his Theory of Relativity and the "Thanksgiving Proclamation" signed by George Washington.
Today is Wednesday, Dec. 11, the 345th day of 2013. There are 20 days left in the year. 1863 — 150 years ago: The message of Abraham Lincoln, read in congress yesterday, is published in full in our paper today, with a new proclamation relating the terms upon which states can return to the union. 1888 — 125 years ago: An appropriation has been made by congress for the improvement of the upper Mississippi River with $200,000 set aside for the portion of the river between Keokuk and the mouth of the Illinois River. 1913 — 100 years ago: Work of remodeling First Swedish Lutheran Church at 4th Avenue and 14th Street was nearly completed. 1938 — 75 years ago: An unexplained outbreak of tularemia (rabbit fever) in the state has Illinois public health officials puzzled. Ten persons have died, and 243 are officially reported ill with the infection. 1963 — 50 years ago: A dramatic, multi-million dollar riverfront improvement project for the downtown area of Rock Island was unveiled at a meeting of 200 civic leaders at noon today. 1988 — 25 years ago: For several supporters of the Dispatch Goodfellow/Argus Santa program their donation is a year long project. Emma Pugh and Anne Persinger spent a good part of their spare time this year knitting forty pairs of mittens and slippers.