Tucked away in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston is a treasure trove of literary history. The Ernest Hemingway Collection, permanently housed on site, includes not only the writer’s priceless manuscripts but also his letters,
notes, maps, bullfight tickets—anything on a piece of paper.
There’s also an entire selection of photographs and some of Hemingway’s favorite possessions, such as big-game taxidermy, statues from Africa, oil paintings and other artwork gathered during his lifetime.
The collection was used by filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick in the making of Hemingway, which recently premiered on GBH 2.
“Think of the Ernest Hemingway Collection more as a concept than a place,” said Hilary Justice, the library’s Hemingway scholar in residence.
Although not on public display, Hemingway’s personal items and papers are preserved as part of the National Archives and available upon request by researchers.
Kennedy and Hemingway corresponded twice, but they never met in person. It was their wives who made the fortuitous connection possible. With nowhere to store her husband’s vast assortment of papers, manuscripts and belongings after his death, Mary Hemingway wrote to Jacqueline Kennedy offering the collection as part of the presidential library.
“The women knew each other, they were both widows, and they both had a responsibility to their husbands’ legacies,” Justice says. “So, I believe there was a moment of emotional kinship that made this all possible,” she says.