UPDATE: Learn more about what's happening today

The Oak Park Public Library will be able to offer unprecedented access to rare archives from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park and the library, thanks to a grant from the Illinois Secretary of State to digitize Illinois history. These items will be included in the Illinois Digital Archives, which is open to everyone.

Jesse White Secretary of State and State Librarian awarded more than $400,000 in digital imaging grants to support the creation and storage of digital collections across the state. Oak Park Public Library was the largest recipient of funds.

"This initiative is about opening access to—and learning with—these rare items," said Oak Park Public Library Executive Director David J. Seleb. Access to the Hemingway Archives has been available by appointment, typically for Hemingway scholars, with the collection spending most of its time housed in secure, museum-grade vaults at the Main Library.

"Hacking Hemingway: Cracking the Code to the Vault" will focus on Ernest Hemingway's life in Oak Park. It will cover his birth through young adulthood with an emphasis on his everyday experiences with family and friends. His sister Marcelline's, mother Grace's, and Ernest's ephemera have been selected for digitization. The Foundation’s Hemingway Archive serves as an informal “twin collection” to a collection housed in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Items from the library’s own Special Collections of Oak Park history will add rich context. The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest also has been invited to include materials that bring to life the Hemingway family’s childhoods.

“We are thrilled to be able to share these Hemingway artifacts with researchers, scholars and Hemingway fans everywhere," said Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park Executive Director Allison Sansone. “These projects will coincide with the 2016 Hemingway International Conference to be held in Oak Park, making this a worldwide event.”

The library will also be partnering with Oak Park Elementary School District 97 on the development of a participatory digital initiative that will provide students and teachers from Brooks Middle School with access to never-before-digitized Hemingway artifacts. This initiative, which is scheduled to begin during the 2015-2016 school year, will transform students and teachers into digital creators who will use the rare items from the archive in conjunction with project-based digital learning lessons that will offer a unique look at Hemingway, his local ties and his literary contributions.

"The key to this project is helping students be curators," said Sharon Comstock, the library's content strategist. "Who better to offer insights into Marcelline's and Ernest's childhoods in Oak Park than children in Oak Park? History lives when we humanize it.
 
"We're approaching Hacking Hemingway as an opportunity to build, with the community, a broad continuum of inquiry-based learning. The library sees opportunities to support information and digital literacies in language arts and humanities," added Comstock who has her PhD with a focus on digital literacies of young adults. "Another thrill is contributing to the Illinois Digital Archives at such a pivotal time in open access."

“We are incredibly excited to be partnering with the library on this innovative program,” said Dr. Al Roberts, superintendent for District 97. “By bringing history to life in a fun and interesting way, Hacking Hemingway will help support instruction and promote learning, while also enhancing the educational experience for our students.”
 
The careful work of digitizing these materials begins at the Main Library this month, with the first items available later this summer. “We are thrilled to lead this initiative and are proud of the global and lasting effects this work will have," Seleb said. The library already receives calls from international literature and history scholars. This digitization initiative is a great opportunity for Oak Park, as well as for Hemingway scholars and fans around the world."
 
Leigh Tarullo, assistant manager of Adult and Teen Services/Special Collections Curator, focused on the local connections this project will continue to build. “The Oak Park Public Library and the Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park have a long history of collaboration in providing access to the unique and historical collections of both institutions. This grant will take that collaboration further in allowing digital access to these collections. I am very excited to be a part of this project!”
 
The library will partner with LYRASIS to digitize materials. A leader in its field, LYRASIS works with libraries, archives and museums and other cultural heritage organizations to create, access and manage information.
 
Added Leigh A. Grinstead, Digital Services Consultant, LYRASIS, “I am thrilled to be working on this project. The staff at the library outlined a thoughtful, collaborative and really interesting way for students and the public to interact with the work of an American icon. I can’t wait to get started!”

IN THE MEDIA: Read local coverage in this Oak Leaves story

About the Foundation
The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park fosters understanding of the life and work of Ernest Hemingway, with emphasis on his Oak Park origins and his impact on world literature. This mission reflects the Foundation's belief in the in the importance of the written word and the value of thoughtful reading and writing. To learn more, visit ehfop.org.
 
About District 97
District 97 is the public elementary school district located in Oak Park, Illinois. The district has eight elementary schools and two middle schools, provides a well-rounded education to nearly 6,000 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, and employs more than 800 highly qualified certified and non-certified staff members. Its vision is to be nationally recognized for preparing students to pursue college and career opportunities through purposeful and respectful learning experiences. To learn more, visit op97.org.

About Oak Park Public Library
Founded as a public library in 1903, the Oak Park Public Library engages with community and enhances the quality of life by providing opportunities for lifelong learning, by creating spaces and opportunities to connect, and by fostering a love of reading and commitment to literacy. To learn more, visit oppl.org.