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Little Known South Coast Library/Museum Features Original Manuscripts Dating Back Before Declaration Of Independence

Karpeles Library/Museum Director Nathan Cohan with an original letter signed by Thomas Jefferson.

Museum has original documents from historical figures like Thomas Jefferson and Johannes Brahms.

It was one of the biggest events in modern-day history. It was the first time man landed and walked on the moon. Some of the key technology from that 1969 mission is now on display on the South Coast.

It’s among the items ranging from original letters, from Thomas Jefferson to drafts of symphonies from Bach, on display at the unique but little known privately owned Karpeles Manuscript Library And Museum in Santa Barbara.

Norman Cohan has been Director of the Library for nearly three decades. He says it's the brainchild of David and Marsha Karpeles.

Cohan says years ago the couple noticed their kids seemed interested in history and historical documents. David Karpeles, who’s a mathematician and real estate investor, decided to start collecting original manuscripts.

What started as a handful of documents has grown into the world's largest privately own collection of original manuscripts, including some which pre-date America’s original 13 colonies.

The Karpeles Manuscript Library/Museum in Santa Barbara is located at 21 West Anacapa Street in Downtown Santa Barbara.

"There's over a million manuscripts in this collection," said Cohan. They are displayed at 17 Karpeles Library/Museums around the world.

"Each museum has about 30 of the manuscripts on display at any given time," said the museum director. Admission to the library/museums is free.

The Anapamu Street location attracts out of town and local visitors. With the items on display changing a few times a year, and rotating between the 17 locations.

Harrison Tasoff is one of many regular visitors. He says he loves the ever changing collection of documents which are a window into history.

The library doesn’t just feature historical documents. There’s a room which features drafts of music written by some legendary classical music composers like Brahms, Bach, and Beethoven.

Cohan says there are also some more contemporary artifacts, like some of the actual electronics from the historic Apollo 11 moon landing mission. He says what the collection does is important, in that it helps us remember our history, especially so we don't let mistakes repeat themselves.

The Karpeles Manuscript Library is open Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.