Date of this Version
Documentary Editing, Volume 20, Number 2, June 1998.
ISSN 2476-1796 (electronic); ISSN 2167-1451 (print)
For the ADE meeting last October, I was asked to comment on the Hemingway Collection from the perspective of an archivist and a curator. The trouble is, the Hemingway Collection is, at this point, thoroughly uninteresting-archivally speaking. Basic concepts of archival theory such as provenance or original order, respect du fonds, apply either trivially (we know precisefly where these papers came from) or not at all (these papers never had an original order). In terms of archival practice, the Hemingway Collection at one time posed a genuine challenge, simply because it did lack any order. The first curator, Jo August Hills, confronted that problem; devised a coherent, flexible cataloging system; and turned a shapeless mass of material into a model of accessibility. Any cataloging I do is merely an application of her excellent system. Moreover, the great archival problems of the end of the century-the proliferation of records and the preservation of electronic data-simply do not apply. Although he was a great packrat, there is, after all, an end to Hemingway's papers. As for electronic recordkeeping, suffice it to say that Hemingway was barely around for the transistor radio.
Since the collection seems to be such a dead end for a strictly archival essay, I will tell you a story instead: a story about why these papers came to be here. I am sure the question has occurred to all of you. What is the connection between Ernest Hemingway and John F. Kennedy? The short answer is "not much." But there is a longer answer.