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  • 11 / 01 / 2006

Finca La Vigia
By Colin Steele

If not for the Northeast Document Conservation Center, the bell could be tolling for some of the country's literary treasures.

The center's work is part of a collaboration between American and Cuban nonprofit organizations to preserve the original works of author Ernest Hemingway. Rosalba Diaz, curator of the Hemingway Museum outside Havana, spent a month here this fall, learning conservation techniques in the office at 100 Brickstone Square to take back to Cuba.

"Hemingway was a beloved scholar and writer for both countries, and it's a nice way to bridge the cultural and political divide," said Sarah Doty, program coordinator for the Social Science Research Council.

The New York-based council began its Hemingway preservation efforts in 2002 and has worked with the center on other projects in the past. Walter Newman, the center's director of paper conservation, visited the Hemingway Museum in 2002 and trained Diaz in Andover.

Hemingway's documents have steadily deteriorated since he left the home in 1960, due mostly to Cuba's tropical climate.

"It's very hard on collections because of the high humidity and the insects and mold," Newman said.

Newman taught Diaz how to repair paper tears, remove mold and other stains, and mend broken dust jackets on books. They also discussed policies and concepts for proper museum caretaking.

Diaz was in Andover from Sept. 18 through Oct. 13. She and a colleague are taking on the "massive" task of preserving all of the museum's documents, Doty said. They will also digitize all the documents and transfer them to microfilm, copies of which will be stored at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

The Hemingway Museum was the author's home for two decades, and "the Cuban government left the house as Hemingway left it," Doty said. It contains 2,000 letters and manuscripts, 3,000 photographs and 9,000 books, she said.

Diaz started with Hemingway's letters, including the original manuscript of "For Whom The Bell Tolls." The goal is to finish those by early 2007 before moving on to the photographs and books, Doty said.

The center has been in Andover for more than 30 years, and "we work on these kinds of important materials all the time," Newman said.

The Hemingway project is a rare example of cooperation between organizations in the United States and Cuba. The United States has had a trade embargo against Cuba since 1962, and Doty called it a "major breakthrough" that Diaz even received a visa to study in Andover.

Source: The Eagle-Tribune

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