- Yemen defense ministry rocked by suicide bomber, gunfire
- Hack attack: 2 million Facebook, Twitter passwords stolen
- Mystery deepens over radioactive cobalt-60 stolen in Mexico
- No mas: Principal bans Spanish language in intercom announcement
- Hacking software could put ‘zombie drone army’ in user’s hands
- Support for stricter gun laws drops: poll
- 10 whales dead, 41 others stranded in Everglades
- John Boehner faces bipartisan pressure to allow gay-rights vote
- Martin Bashir resigns from MSNBC over ‘ill-judged’ comments about Sarah Palin
- Rep. Duncan Hunter: While Obama prays for Iranian change, U.S. should ready its nukes
Time takes a toll on the letters of Hemingway
ANDOVER, Mass. — The paper conservator’s scalpel picked at the red and black specks, flicking away the fly droppings that had stained Ingrid Bergman’s letter to Ernest Hemingway.
“I shall remember people like you and forget the rest of the world,” the actress wrote to her author friend from Rome in 1950.
Six decades later, an effort to preserve that memory, and others that are part of the writer’s legacy, recently began inside a New England lab.
From mold, to mice, to moisture, the JFK Library and Museum in Boston is trying to save its collection of Hemingway’s incoming letters from the different types of damage that have been degrading the batch as it ages. Box by box, thousands of letters to the author are heading to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover for mending, washing, flattening and other repairs.
Walter Newman, the center’s paper conservation director, said the goal of the current Hemingway project is to slow the different processes that are degrading the letters. Experts surveyed the damage about 18 months ago, and restoration work started on a recent afternoon when assistant conservator Claire Grund went to work on Bergman’s letter, among others.
About half of the 7,500 letters in the incoming collection need restoration work. JFK Library’s Hemingway curator Susan Wrynn said most letters are worth around $5,000.
After Hemingway’s 1961 suicide, President John F. Kennedy made arrangements for the author’s fourth wife, Mary, to go to Cuba during a U.S. ban on travel there. Cuban leader Fidel Castro let her reclaim some of her husband’s documents and possessions in exchange for donating Hemingway's villa outside Havana and other belongings to the Cuban people.
Mary Hemingway shipped crates of documents on a shrimp boat to Florida, also retrieving papers from other places her husband had lived, before offering the collection to Jacqueline Kennedy for her husband’s presidential library.
The papers started arriving in Boston 40 years ago, when library officials stored them in a dark vault where they could control temperature and humidity levels. But that didn’t keep iron gall ink, a corrosive and once-common writing agent, from eating through the paper some of the letters came on.
It also couldn’t reverse mold growth or repair rodent nibbles on letters that spent years in storage in humid spots like Key West, Fla., or Cuba. Letters penned on acidic paper also began falling apart as their fibers aged.
“His documents were kept in so many places over time. There are so many things that have happened to them,” Ms. Wrynn said. “The deterioration just continues, so if you don’t become proactive at some point, you have the potential to lose information.”
Among letters needing repair are some from the writer’s family, childhood cronies, and war and fishing buddies. Besides two of Bergman’s letters, correspondence from Hollywood stars Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper will undergo work, as well.
- Inside China: Nuclear submarines capable of widespread attack on U.S.
- Apple wins facial recognition patent for iPhone 6
- 'Harry Potter' and 'Hunger Games' fans debate over political messages in films
- Democratic infighting erupts with squabble over entitlements
- Young and healthy millennials create risky imbalance by shunning Obamacare
- Obamas call to close Vatican embassy is 'slap in the face' to Roman Catholics
- Allen West warns Obamas backdoor gun control is moving forward
- Kill team: Obama war chiefs widen drone death zones
- Susan Rice slams Russia, China on human rights
- U.S. debt jumps a record $328 billion tops $17 trillion for first time
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
The Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses. And how to get from here to there.
A libertarian look at breaking news and political trends by author Tom Mullen.
A stat-head’s outlook, direct from his worn in couch cushion.
Playing Through covers the world of PGA golf, as well as tips your the average golfer to play better.