About the Foundation


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Publication Date: May 24, 2018
By Shapell Manuscript Foundation
Runtime: 3.35 minutes

The Shapell Manuscript Foundation is an independent educational organization dedicated to collecting and exhibiting original manuscripts and historical documents.

Transcript

Sara Willen:
What somebody is really like, that’s often the question I think that people who are interested in history want answered, what is someone really like? The overarching theme of the Shapell Manuscript Collection is the human side of history. This is a collection that is 40 years in the making sure.

Jonathan Sarna:
Shapell Manuscript Foundation is devoted to educating the community and exciting people about primary source materials.

Thea Wieseltier:
The foundation focuses on the histories of the US and the Holy Land, with a very strong emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries.

Sara Willen:
Because we’re dealing with the past, in most cases we can’t ask somebody, we can’t look at film, we can’t listen to a recording, we can’t even look at snapshots of them playing on the lawn. What we have to do is look at their letters, because the only way that we know what happened is if somebody wrote it down and somebody saved the paper it was written on.

Harold Holzer:
Handwritten documents add element to history that is replaceable by no other imitation or transcription that was touched, handled, by a figure of tremendous importance in history. It’s a very spiritual collection, to me, seeing four or five pieces aligned that tell the story of forgiveness, or understanding, or universality of belief, or acceptance of differences.

Jonathan Sarna:
That serves as a reminder and a great lesson that behind great figures there’s a human being just like you and me.

Harold Holzer:
I don’t think there’s another private collection that connects that way to themes of spirit and personality. I’ll tell you the two arts that this collection masters, the art of curating the collection, hiring professionals to analyze material, or using historians to go through the collection and find threads that tell a public story.

Thea Wieseltier:
An amazing amount of time, resources, goes into research.

Adrienne Usher:
This is about creating a legacy. Without research, we are at great risk of not understanding our past, and without understanding our past we cannot understand our future.

Sara Willen:
The foundation has partnered with the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the Morgan Library, the New York Historical Society, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Oregon Historical Society.

Thea Wieseltier:
The foundation as published books, exhibitions, films, we have a remarkable website.

Harold Holzer:
You can go online and see the most extraordinary scans of Lincoln material and other material, well-written curatorial expositions on individual pieces.

Sara Willen:
It’s like entering the past, and the person doing the entering actually is you.