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US, Cuba Stepping Up Efforts to Save Hemingway Artifacts

FILE - A visitor peers into the living room at Finca Vigia, home of the late U.S. literary icon Ernest Hemingway in Havana, Cuba, June 15, 2016.

Ernest Hemingway was a pack rat who saved everything. Fortunately for fans of the literary icon, U.S. and Cuban officials and scholars have been working together to preserve artifacts at his former estate in Cuba - items they say will help illuminate his colorful legacy.

At a forum Wednesday at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston, Hemingway experts from both countries underscored their determination to save the books, letters, fishing rods, mounted animal trophies and more that the acclaimed author left behind in Havana.

Their collaboration underscores how a new era of U.S.-Cuban normalization is taking root.

The forum included TV host Bob Vila, a son of Cuban emigrants who's been restoring the Hemingway home known as Finca Vigia, or “Lookout Farm.” Joining Vila were U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts; Ada Rosa Alfonso, director of Cuba's Museo Hemingway; and Susan Wrynn, former curator of the JFK Library's Ernest Hemingway Collection.

Hemingway threw little away, effectively leaving behind a rich archive that includes his passport and Christmas cards, Wrynn said.

Much of the material has been housed at Finca Vigia, which fell into disrepair over a half-century of Cold War between the U.S. and Cuba.

“We have an enormous responsibility because we have more than 23,000 pieces,” Alfonso said.

The Kennedy library, which opened in 1979, is a repository for the world's largest collection of documents, photographs and personal mementos belonging to the celebrated author of “A Farewell to Arms,” “The Old Man and the Sea,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and other classics.

Hemingway and Kennedy never met, but the late president was an admirer. Kennedy wrote Hemingway for permission to use his oft-quoted phrase “grace under pressure” in the opening to Kennedy's own “Profiles in Courage.”

Hemingway died in 1961.