A processor’s (concluding) perspective

Looking back at the first blog post I wrote nearly three years ago, I have admittedly mixed feelings about how the Hugh Morton processing project has proceeded, and is now wrapping up. Don’t get me wrong — when I compare these “after” pictures of the collection with the “before” shots in that first post, I feel an undeniable satisfaction, that particular archivists’ sense of triumph at having wrestled what was essentially a BIG OLD MESS into something that is organized, nicely rehoused and labeled, physically stabilized, digitized (in part), described, and accessible to the public.

Still, there is a niggling part of me that suspects, deep down, that my victory over the Morton beast is incomplete . . . that despite three years of hard work (not just mine, but also that of numerous and wonderful students and volunteers), the collection still somehow got the best of me. [Note from Stephen: the collection also got the best in Elizabeth.] In the past, I’ve left behind most of my projects/collections with a sense of closure — I had thoroughly beaten those collections into submission, and it was unlikely any processor would ever have to work on them again (or at least for a very long time). Not the case with this one! A person could devote a CAREER to the Morton Collection and still not be “finished.”

In that first post, I wrote:

Since I began working on the collection . . . I have had regular moments of crisis during which I become nearly paralyzed by all the challenges associated with and possible approaches to this project. How do you impose order on chaos, while respecting what few pockets of order do exist? How do you decide what to digitize, and when? How do you balance the needs and interests of the many people who will use this collection with the preservation needs of the material itself?

I’m not sure that we ever found firm answers to these questions, or that we ever really will. But the answer we have to go with is, “we do our best.” And that’s what we did!

  • We digitized, described, and made available online more than 7,500 images in the Hugh Morton Digital Collection
  • We organized the collection into nine series by subject, and described everything in detail in the collection’s finding aid, and linked it up to the digital collection at the subseries level
  • We tracked our progress and highlighted special topics/images in this blog, and built upon it through the Worth 1,000 Words essay project

And what of the future, you ask? First and foremost, A View to Hugh will continue! North Carolina Collection Photographic Archivist Stephen Fletcher will be taking over primary author and editorial duties, but I will likely contribute now and again. We may not post as often as we have for the past three years, but there’s just too much fascinating, beautiful, relevant stuff in this collection — we simply must share!

I’ll be moving on to other collections here in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, but will still be around and completing a few remaining Morton-related clean-up tasks. Morton Collection-related inquiries should be directed to Stephen; information about reproductions is available on the NCCPA Requesting Reproductions page.

Until next time,

–Elizabeth Hull