Duluth’s Karpeles Manuscript Museum will carry on despite losing two key people

Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 1:08 PM CST
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Karpeles Duluth Museum survives rough 2022 and hopes for better 2023
Karpeles Duluth Museum survives rough 2022 and hopes for better 2023(kbjr)

DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - Matthew Sjelin plays keyboards for a band called the Trash Cats as a side job. He sometimes practices his parts at the Karpeles Manuscript Musuem on Duluth’s First Street. It’s okay - his day job is director of the museum. It’s one of eleven such museums around the country founded by David Karpeles. This one is a former Christian Science Church.

“David was an electrical engineer here in Duluth. His family moved here from Santa Barbara California. He is a Denfeld graduate from 1957.” said Matthew Sjelin.

Karpeles became wealthy by inventing the magnetic ink used on checks. The manuscripts he collected as a hobby include items from Mozart, Galileo, Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, Amelia Earhart and Norman Rockwell among dozens of others. The variety of items at a Karpeles Museum draws in a variety of viewers like actor Dane Stauffer from Glensheen The Musical.

“I love seeing collections of whatever: art, musical instruments and in this case manuscripts. I like to see collections and what’s here in the world.” said Dane Stauffer.

In the world of Karpeles Museums, the year 2022 held two major shocks. The first was the passing at age 86 of founder David Karpeles.

“He loved Duluth so much and always wanted this museum to be one of his flagship museums so it was very difficult to lose him.” said Sjelin.

The second was the death of employee Joe Mann, a native of Hoyt Lakes. Before the museum, Mann worked in local broadcasting for more than 25 years and earned an Emmy Silver Circle for that service. While working at Karpeles, he turned an old china cabinet into a display on the museum building’s days as a Christian Science church. The cabinet will now do double duty.

“I will be making it very obvious it is a tribute to Joe. It is not going to be the same without him.” said Sjelin.

But, the Duluth branch of Karpeles Manuscript Museum hopes to continue its same tradition of free service to the public despite the deaths of two important people. Matthew Sjelin says the 11 eleven museums around the nation will now be run by a board of family members with a long term plan.

“It wouldn’t be something that would only last the next 50 years but something that would last generationally as long as someone was interested in continuing it and there is serious interest in continuing it for many, many years.” said Sjelin,

In Duluth, Dave Anderson, Northern News Now.