Morton finding aid online!

The man in this gorgeous Morton image appears to be searching for something, though I’m not sure what. Inspiration? Perspective? The meaning of life? Perhaps he could use a finding aid.

It took longer than anticipated, but a preliminary finding aid for Series 1 of the Hugh Morton Collection of Photographs and Films, “North Carolina Places,” is finally online. We were working out some issues with our new style sheet, which controls the display, but I think it was worth the wait! The design looks a million times better than our old template, and we also think it’s much easier to navigate.

Please bear a few things in mind:

  1. This inventory is by no means a complete representation of the contents of the Morton collection. This is only one series of an eventual nine, and doesn’t yet include the 35mm slides or the moving images. Here are the remaining series, in the order in which they are likely to be added over the coming year: People & Events, Nature & Scenic, Grandfather Mountain, UNC-Chapel Hill, Sports, World War II, Places, Non-North Carolina & Unidentified, and Documents & Objects.
  2. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that working on this collection is by no means an exact science. So many of Morton’s images are unidentified and/or undated, forcing us to make “educated guesses.” Our guesses may sometimes be off, but we feel that it’s much more helpful to you, the user, if we try to narrow things down as much as we can. Please let us know if you see problems or errors (though if they’re too embarrassing, maybe you should email me instead of commenting publicly on the blog!).
  3. Hugh Morton was also a human being, not immune to his own mistakes and faults of memory. When information is given in quotation marks in the finding aid, that indicates information Morton himself (or in rare cases, mystery people with different handwriting) provided. We maintain those original identifications, even if they may not be entirely accurate, or can sometimes confuse matters (e.g., by calling the same location “Beech Mountain” in one image and “Banner Elk” in another).
  4. You may be thinking to yourself, “sure, an inventory is great, but how do I see the pictures?” The primary answer to that question is that you should come in and visit the North Carolina Collection (though you might want to call first if you plan on doing intensive investigation). The secondary answer is that we are still hard at work on the Morton digital collection, which will enable you to view, browse, and search thousands of Morton images online. Be on the lookout for announcements related to that soon.

So, have at it. Look through the preliminary finding aid, and let us know what you think!

12 thoughts on “Morton finding aid online!

  1. Maybe he’s looking for a needle in one of those haystacks? An appropriate image for a finding aid designed to help search through thousands of images.

  2. Congratulations, Elizabeth. The finding aid is yet another giant step along the way for the Morton Collection team.

  3. I have a huge smile on my face to finally see this available to share with everyone. It was such hard work! You did a great job on getting this up and running, Elizabeth. Congratulations!

  4. Thank you so much Elizabeth for this. At last a gateway into a Tar Heel treasure.

    How did I meet Hugh Morton? An early Sunday morning, thick fog on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I am driving way too fast, into a curve, almost in a four wheel drift. Suddenly a dark figure in the middle of the road. Brakes. Fishtailing. Stopped. Safe.

    I get out. Introductions. It is him. Alive. Trying to take an atmospheric picture of the Brinegar Cabin. I have used his pictures for magazine articles.

    We focus on one. The 1949 Duke vs Carolina football game, perhaps the best ever played in the state. The one in which the great Choo Choo Justice prevailed for the last time, 21-20. But the one in which All American Art Weiner made the deciding play by blocking Mike Souchak’s (future PGA star) last ditch field goal attempt with his butt.

    What a kind and gracious man Hugh Morton was. And a terrific photographer to boot. Now we can share him with the rest of world. Those lucky people.

    Fam Brownlee
    NC Room
    Forsyth County Public Library

  5. Mr. Brownlee, I certainly agree with you that the 1949 Carolina – Duke game was perhaps the best game ever played in North Carolina. Your mentioning that game prompted me to go to my files and pull out the October/November, 1979 issue of “Triad” magazine. In that issue you wrote a fantastic article about that game and as you say, you used 4 magnificent Morton photos. As I looked through the magazine, I also noted your excellent article called “The Blue Ridge Parkway.” It too has 3 images from Hugh Morton. If memory serves, I believe I sent you a note back in ’79 when the magazine came out. Thanks again for all your good work.

  6. Needle in a haystack–perfect! Wish I had thought of that. The Morton collection really was a haystack when it came in to the library, but I’d like to think we’re making things much easier to find.

  7. The farmer and his haystacks shot was taken from 221 near Altamont, I think. It reminds me that I have never heard you speak of the black and white infared photos Hugh used to make many years ago because he liked the contrast. Could this be one?
    And congratulations on the Series One Finding Aid. Having seen the mountain of raw material you started with I may appreciate you more than anyone else possibly could.

  8. Julia, I think this one was taken with infrared film, though it’s not as high-contrast as some of the others. I love those older infrared photos, and will share more of them soon!

  9. The “farmer and his haystacks” image was featured on the front cover of “The State Magazine” for September 17, 1949. In the caption, Morton says the man didn’t know the picture was being taken. After Hugh took the picture, he struck up a conversation with the farmer.

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