New Hemingway Materials from Cuba Made Available for First Time at JFK Library

For Immediate Release: February 11, 2014
Further information: Rachel Flor (617) 514-1662,


BOSTON, MA – The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum today announced that it has made available, in print form, 2,500 digital scans of Ernest Hemingway materials housed at the Nobel Prize-winning author’s former Cuban estate, the Finca Vigía. This material, which has never been seen outside of Cuba, includes letters, passports, telegrams, household accounts, bar bills, recipes and a notebook of hurricane observations among other items. It was digitized through the efforts of the U.S. Finca Vigía Foundation under an agreement with the Cuban Council of National Heritage. 

Click here to download the press kit.

Click here to access the collection’s finding aid.

These scans join the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the Kennedy Library, which spans Hemingway’s entire career and represents ninety percent of existing Hemingway manuscript materials, making the Kennedy Library the world’s principal center for research on the life and work of the author. Today’s opening is the second release of materials conserved by the Hemingway Museum in Cuba with technical support from the Finca Vigía Foundation. The first trove consisting of 3,000 digitized images of documents was donated to the Kennedy Library in 2008. Print outs of the scans are available for researchers to review in the Hemingway Room at the Library.

“We are pleased to make available to researchers copies of these materials that provide a unique glimpse into the everyday life of Ernest Hemingway,” said Tom Putnam, Director of the Kennedy Library. “For a literary figure who is often portrayed as larger than life, this trove of personal ephemera serves to humanize the man and to understand the writer.” 

Hemingway wrote many of his most famous works at the Finca Vigía, his Cuban residence, including For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. The manuscripts published posthumously, A Moveable Feast, Islands in the Stream, The Dangerous Summer, The Garden of Eden, and True at First Light were also written in Cuba where he lived from 1939 to 1960. 

After Hemingway’s death in 1961, despite a U.S. ban on travel to Cuba (the result of high tensions between the two countries following the Bay of Pigs invasion), President Kennedy made arrangements for Hemingway’s widow, Mary, to enter Cuba to claim family documents and belongings. While in Cuba, Mrs. Hemingway met with Fidel Castro, who allowed her to take her husband’s papers and the artwork he collected in exchange for the donation of their Finca Vigía home and its remaining belongings to the Cuban people.

A 1968 exchange of letters between Mary Hemingway and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis confirmed that the Hemingway papers would find a permanent home at the Kennedy Library. However, thousands of documents remained at Hemingway’s house in the outskirts of Havana. Over the next forty years, the Finca Vigía was operated by the Cuban government. Thousands of photographs, original manuscripts and galleys of his stories and novels, his correspondence and his journals, and a personal library of almost nine thousand volumes – many with his writing in the margins – remained in Cuba but were in danger of deterioration from heat, humidity, pests, mold, and the sheer passage of time. 

In 2002 a bi-national collaboration was formed to provide additional resources to preserve these treasures. An agreement was signed in Cuba at the Finca Vigía by former Cuban President Fidel Castro, Sean Hemingway (Hemingway’s grandson), U.S. Congressman James McGovern, and representatives of the Finca Vigía Foundation who continue to assist the Cuban government in the digitization and scanning process.

Additional Background on the Ernest Hemingway Collection
The Ernest Hemingway Collection was the generous gift of Mary Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s widow, to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. While Ernest Hemingway and John F. Kennedy never met, President Kennedy admired Hemingway's work. In the opening sentence of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, Kennedy cited Hemingway's description of courage, writing that, "This is a book about the most admirable of human virtues: courage. 'Grace under pressure,' as Ernest Hemingway defined it." President Kennedy invited Hemingway to his 1961 inauguration, but the author declined as he was too ill to travel.

Mary Hemingway saw the Kennedy Library as a fitting place for her late husband’s papers due to the role President Kennedy played in helping her collect them after Hemingway’s death. 
In 1972, Mrs. Hemingway began depositing papers in the Kennedy Library, and in 1980 Patrick Hemingway and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis dedicated the Hemingway Room in the Kennedy Library. To learn more about the Hemingway Collection, visit or to find out how to make an appointment to conduct research visit or call (617) 514-1629.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Kennedy Presidential Library and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.