Why Do We Collect Manuscripts?

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Publication Date: January 31, 2019
By Shapell Manuscript Foundation
Runtime: 1.23 minutes

People who are interested in history collect manuscripts because they want to know what somebody was really like. When you look at a letter, you’re looking at what was going on in a person’s life – what did this feel like to the person experiencing it at that time – and before you know it, you have a whole world coming alive.

Transcript

Harold Holzer
Why do people collect things? To people who don’t, it’s pretty mysterious and inexplicable.

Sara Willen
People who were interested in history collect manuscripts, and they collect them because they want to know what was somebody really like?

Harold Holzer
And there is a tactile sense that you get from these documents. The way the ink is pressed onto a paper for particular words, indicates emphasis, doubt, conviction. It’s extraordinary how much handwriting can tell you.

Sara Willen
When you look at a letter you’re looking at to who is the person writing? What was going on in his or her life? And before you know it, you have a whole world coming alive.

Harold Holzer
It’s just a sense you get from original material that’s almost magical, and you know it when you see it and you know you have to have it, if you can, and you know you want to display it and preserve it.

Sara Willen
I think what you find in the Shapell Manuscript Collection, is that you always find the human element. What did this feel like to the person experiencing it at the time? The answer is in the collection.