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The vast Ernest Hemingways archives reside in Boston. How did it go?




If you’ve listened to Burns and Lynn Novicks Hemingway last night on PBS (parts two and three air Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 p.m.), you’ll see these photos and manuscripts featured along with the classic. Ken Burns effect.

It’s very, very rare for a writer to be in a presidential library, said Hilary K. Justice, a Hemingway researcher in residence at the JFK library.

So how did the archives of a writer who lived in Illinois, Michigan, Paris, Florida, Cuba and Idaho end up here? In a presidential library, nothing less?

The story about it is really cool, Justice said.

Ernest Hemingway shown driving an ambulance in Italy during World War I.
Ernest Hemingway shown driving an ambulance in Italy during World War I.The Ernest Hemingway Collection, Presidential Library and John F. Kennedy Museum

Although President John F. Kennedy admires Hemingways’ handwriting, the two have never met and have only corresponded a few times very briefly, she said, adding that Hemingway had been invited to the Kennedys inauguration in 1961 but was too ill to attend.

The Kennedys also hosted a White House dinner for Nobel Laureates in 1962, after Hemingway’s death. Mary Hemingway, his widow, was present and sat next to JFK, the judge said.

When Mary gathered her husband’s papers after his death, she had a problem: there was no obvious place to archive them because Hemingway had never been to college, the typical destination for works. writers. She spoke at the New York Public Library, Justice said. They said they were interested, but she wanted [everything kept together] in its own space, and the library couldn’t promise it.

Mary read this [Jacqueline] Kennedy was in the process of setting up her late husband’s presidential library and wrote articles featuring Hemingways articles. Mrs. Kennedy agreed, the judge said. When IM Pei designed the building, he made room for Hemingway.

There is only one other American writer whose papers are kept in a presidential library: Laura Ingalls Wilder. (She never went to college either, Justice said.) Wilders’ archives are in the Presidential Library and Herbert Hoover Museum in Iowa.

In filming the documentary, Florentine Films essentially recreated the Hemingways office at the JFK library, Justice said. You can’t tell it was the JFK library, but those of us who were there that day saw little snippets: it was in the library! We were there!

Justice served as an advisor on the film as one of my areas of expertise is Hemingway and music. . . I told them what the Hemingways record collection was like, what he listened to. (Bach was a favorite.)

In this July 1934 photo from the Ernest Hemingway Collection, Hemingway poses with a marlin at Havana Harbor in Key West, Florida.
In this July 1934 photo from the Ernest Hemingway Collection, Hemingway poses with a marlin at Havana Harbor in Key West, Florida.THE ERNEST HEMINGWAY COLLECTION, PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND JOHN F. KENNEDY MUSEUM

Had Hemingway ever visited Boston?

Justice can put him twice in Boston, while he was just passing.

Her mother had six children. She took them one at a time to spend a few weeks in Nantucket. Hemingway left at age 11, took a train from Chicago to Bostons South station, where you took the ferry in 1910, she says. That’s it. And yet the JFK is the global center for Hemingway research. And it is a treasure.

The JFK Library is closed due to the pandemic until further notice. For more details on the Hemingway Archives and how to consult them, visit for more details.

Lauren Daley can be reached at [email protected]. She tweets @ laurendaley1.

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