What’s happening with Hacking Hemingway

Humanizing history in 140 characters

Since February’s release of the first 84 digitized artifacts from the library’s Special Collections and The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park on the Illinois Digital Archives, there’s another place online you may have seen young Ernest, his sister Marcelline, and his mother Grace.

Your Twitter feed.

As the library continues to work with the Illinois State Library and the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State to upload the remaining 200+ images of Hemingway and his family and friends in Oak Park and Michigan, we are also giving those artifacts some special attention through a targeted Twitter campaign, tagged as #HackingHemingway.

Weekly themes focus on particular family members or a specific period of time. All feature one historical image with several supporting observations shared in 140 characters or less (Twitter’s communications limit). The campaign will soon expand to Facebook and Instagram, and the hope is to get all 300+ images on social media channels by the end of July.

The posts are helping humanize the artifacts, making history come alive, and inspiring community connections between the time of Hemingway’s childhood and our own lives today.

“We’re uncovering the past in a way people can easily access, share, and comment on,” said Digital Learning Resident for the Hacking Hemingway grant Alex Nall, who is leading the social media campaign. “It’s about taking a closer look, observing, and exploring more with each image.”

“We’re hoping to encourage others to learn something new about Hemingway and their community, every day,” he added.

Creating six-word stories

The brevity of Twitter ties to another new learning initiative inspired by the artifacts’ digitization. In partnership with Oak Park Elementary School District 97, Nall and teachers are using Hemingway’s Oak Park ties to connect with local middle schoolers.

Although Hemingway is falsely attributed with the famous six-word tale, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” this short story epitomizes his writing style—short, choppy, and direct. Taking inspiration from his style, students will develop their own succinct masterpieces through an anthology titled In Your Time.

Work is in progress and, when compiled, will be unveiled at the Hemingway Society’s 17th biennial international conference July 17-22. It will also be included in Oak Park Creates, a curated collection showcasing local authors, filmmakers, and musicians.

“We’re delighted that this partnership will create authentic, unique learning opportunities for our students to engage with Hemingway artifacts,” said Jamie Winchell, Teacher Librarian at Percy Julian Middle School. “Using the awesome lens of Hemingway’s life and career, students will tap into their creativity to reflect on their own experiences in Oak Park.”

A Walk in Hemingway's Oak Park

Taking a walk back in time

A third initiative coming to the Main Library Idea Box beginning in May will be a colorful and interactive installation titled “A Walk in Hemingway’s Oak Park.” Everyone is invited to help recreatewith corrugated cardboard and other recycled materialsthree iconic buildings related to Ernest’s Oak Park years. Buildings will be the Scoville Institute (the public library building during Hemingway’s time), the Hemingway Birthplace Home on Oak Park Avenue, and the Hemingway Boyhood Home on Kenilworth Avenue. Drop-in creation hours will be 2-4 pm Saturdays and Sundays in May and June. The final installation will be on display through July, as well as presented at the international conference.