Color and Places: Hugh Morton Photographs in the North Carolina Cancer Hospital


Sometimes you have to make exceptions. A little more than a year ago, I was contacted by the designers assigned to decorate the interior of the then-under construction (and now newly opened) NC Cancer Hospital. They were seeking Hugh Morton photographs of the North Carolina landscape to be made into very large panels for public areas of the hospital. This was a great opportunity to place some of Hugh Morton’s photographs in highly visible locations within a prominent and important facility, and to assist our sister institution. The problem was, a little more than year ago, we were a little less than knowledgeable about what photographs were where in the collection. (That is one of the reasons the collection was closed to researchers until very recently). What to do?

We made an exception. I explained the status of the collection and its limited access at that point, but also asked the designer to go through Morton’s published books for images that we could try to find or approximate. Once they compiled that list, I turned it over to Elizabeth, who combed through photographs she could access to find suitable images. The design firm made their selections, Elizabeth turned over the material to the Carolina Digital Library and Archives scanning technician, and then we waited a year to see the results.

Earlier this month, Elizabeth and I had the opportunity to tour the building and see the installations. To say it is a beautiful building is not saying enough, and Morton’s photographs are wonderful splashes of color and place that contribute to the overall atmosphere inside.

The photographs you see here illustrate a few of those installations. In the photograph above, Elizabeth stands next to a very long panoramic composite mural that repeats slices of several Morton images. Below is the lobby and information desk inside the main entrance (featuring a Morton mountain panorama).


Here’s a couple of installations behind reception desks.  Sorry . . . the hospital is designed to let in lots of the outside light and views, so it was impossible to photograph during the day without getting reflections!



Shown above with her back to the camera is our tour guide Ellen de Graffenreid, Director of Communications & Marketing for the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. (Thank you, Ellen!)

If this next image isn’t too tiny on your computer screen, you can play “Where’s Elizabeth?”!


It was particularly satisfying to tour this impressive facility and see how Hugh Morton’s photographs add to the overall aesthetic of the building, especially since he was a victim of cancer himself.