Originally Posted Online: Oct. 01, 2012, 5:32 pm
Last Updated: Oct. 01, 2012, 5:33 pm

New museum off to a 'wonderful start'

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By John Marx, jmarx@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Deana Znamenacek's grandson, Jett, peers out the window as she examines some of the historic documents on display at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Rock Island on Monday, October 1, 2012. A steady stream of people entered the museum on Monday, the first day it was open to the public, to see a selection of documents related to Mark Twain. The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
An 1884 sketch of Mark Twain is among the items currently on display at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Rock Island.

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.

For more information, visit karpeles.org.