Hemingway in Oak Park: New Ken Burns film shows photos from your library

Hemingway, the new three-part documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, premieres on WTTW and PBS on April 5-7.  See the WTTW schedule »

And if you watch the film, you’ll see some archival images from your library, showing a young Ernest growing up in Oak Park.

Our Manager and Curator of Special Collections Leigh Tarullo started working with Burns’ production company back in 2018, helping them select images for the film that show Hemingway’s early life in Oak Park. Tarullo has extensive experience and familiarity with the Hemingway collections housed at the Main Library, which are owned by both the library and The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park. For the library, she led the 2016 Hacking Hemingway initiative, which digitized rare archival images for unprecedented public access through the Illinois Digital Archives.

“The production company was wonderful to work with, and we are excited to have Hemingway’s Oak Park upbringing featured in the film,” Tarullo says. “And we are of course delighted that they used items from our collections in the film.”

Related: Read the article “Ernest Hemingway’s problematic legacy is reexamined, both in Ken Burns’ new documentary and in Oak Park” in the Chicago Tribune

Learn about the photos used in the film (and see many more online)

Images selected for the new Hemingway documentary include some never-before-digitized photos such as the one shown above, of young Ernest (the tallest one, second from right) walking with friends while on a camping trip along the Des Plaines River.

Young Ernest Hemingway (left) with sisters Marcelline and Ursula in Oak Park, summer of 1903. From the Illinois Digital Archives collection “The Early Years—Ernest and Marcelline Hemingway in Oak Park.”

Other images used in the documentary were digitized back in 2016 through the Hacking Hemingway grant. The one shown here is of Ernest with his older sister Marcelline and baby sister Ursula in Oak Park in the summer of 1903. This image, as well as the other artifacts digitized, can now be viewed anytime in the Illinois Digital Archives (IDA) collection “The Early Years—Ernest and Marcelline Hemingway in Oak Park.”

Artifacts in the IDA collection include rarely seen snapshots, family scrapbooks, school assignments, and mementos illustrating the early lives of Ernest and Marcelline Hemingway in Oak Park. Before they were digitized, the artifacts owned by The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park and the library were accessible only by appointment at the Main Library.

Join: Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park virtual events

Conversations on Hemingway: A Virtual Event Series. Various dates through March 30. Join the filmmakers and special guests as they explore the writer’s art and legacy. The hour-long discussions feature clips from the upcoming three-part series. Learn more and register »

Panel Discussion: “Hemingway” Documentary. Thursday, April 8, 6:30-7:30 pm. The American Writers Museum will host a panel of Ernest Hemingway scholars. Learn more and register »

Join: PBS Books Hemingway Book Club Conversation

PBS Books Hemingway Book Club Conversation. Thursday, April 8, 7 pm. Meet with the filmmakers to discuss the Hemingway film, as well as the work and life of Ernest Hemingway. PBS Books will host a Q&A-style virtual discussion on Facebook Live and through libraries in the PBS Books Network.

Watch: Behind the scenes with the filmmakers (recorded)

Filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick joined WTTW to discuss Hemingway’s childhood with Hemingway scholar Verna Kale and acclaimed author Tim O’Brien in a conversation moderated by WTTW’s Paris Schutz (an Oak Park native, like Hemingway). Watch here »