Most of the exhibits you’ll find at the Karpeles are traveling shows. Charleston’s Karpeles is one of many throughout the country. Manuscript shows travel from site to site, radiating out from the main depository in Santa Barbara, Calif. The Charleston venue, however, does have its own permanent collection, a cache of 39 documents originating from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and Victorian eras.
One letter is from John C. Calhoun. Another letter from Francis Marion.
To anyone who doesn’t believe the Civil War was about slavery, consider the Karpeles’ collection of letters. Their authors spent a lot of time observing the behavior of slaves. Evidently, whites of the time knew the war was about slavery — and they were very concerned about what slaves were thinking and feeling.
“They wrote about the behavior of slaves as the Union Army got closer,” says Stephen J. White, director of the Karpeles. “The slaves felt fear and joy and excitement, but didn’t dare show it, because their masters were still in charge.”
The only artifacts not related to Charleston are eight Egyptian sandstones. On them are carved ancient Egyptian gods. White says they were buried for thousands of years before being purchased by David Karpeles, the museum’s namesake.
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