New series available, plus a semi-fun photo-related activity

Imagine my excitement when I went to the cnn.com homepage a few weeks ago and saw an article entitled “Connecting the past to the present tougher than it looks.” This is a story from CNN’s iReport feature, where they “outsource” their reporting to regular folks — CNN assigned their iReporters to try their hand at a neat, low-tech photography technique that involves lining up historic photos with the same current-day scene. (There’s a great Flickr group devoted to this practice, called “Looking Into the Past” — however, some of these people are obviously cheating with Photoshop).

Let me back up for a minute to make two BIG behind-the-scenes announcements: 1) the Grandfather Mountain and UNC-Chapel Hill series (Series 4 and 5) of the Morton collection are now available online and open for research; and 2) the digital collection has reached (and rocketed past) 5,000 items.

In honor of these developments (particularly the availability of the UNC-CH photos), Sam and I decided to try our hand at the “lining-up” trick, right here on campus: we printed out a few of Hugh Morton’s photos from when he was a student here (1939-1942), and went out with the digital camera. As you can see from the results below, it is indeed “tougher than it looks”! (Especially when it’s windy outside).

Here we are attempting to situate a Morton photo of a group of unidentified gentlemen (UNC faculty?) standing on the front steps of Wilson Library (view the original here). Close, but no cigar. . . finding the exact right spot and angle to successfully line up the print with the real world is quite difficult, and you also look and feel ridiculous as you fumble around for that perfect perspective.

Equally poorly-aligned is this portrait of a wild group of hooligans posing on the steps of South Building. If anyone knows what’s going on here, please fill us in… the original can be viewed in much greater detail here. (I assume this gathering is World War II-related, because one of said hooligans is holding a button that reads “To Hell with Hitler”).

We did a little better, but not much, with this Morton portrait of 1941-1942 UNC senior Frances Bonkemeyer, publicity chair for the YWCA and member of the UNC Coed Senate (see the original here).

So to sum up, let me first reiterate that Series 4 (Grandfather Mountain) and Series 5 (UNC-Chapel Hill) are now included in the online finding aid and available for research! And, the Hugh Morton digital collection contains more than 5,400 items!

We hope our little exercise inspires you to try “linking the past with the present” using historic photos. Send us your results if you do.

New essay, new look

eleanor_thumbFirst and foremost, we’re thrilled to announce the availability of the second essay in our Worth 1,000 Words series: it’s by former University Archivist Janis Holder and is entitled Covering the Beat: The University in the WWII Era. Please read, enjoy, share, and comment!

Secondly, you may have noticed that “A View to Hugh” has gotten a bit of a makeover! We’ve upgraded to a new “theme” in WordPress, but tried to maintain much of the original look, feel and functionality. The most pressing reason for this upgrade was to better accommodate our essays, which you will see now occupy their own section of the V2H website. The essays are now posted as their own pages, rather than as traditional posts.

For those of you who might be missing the old V2H look, you should also know that our original WordPress theme was “orphaned” and had become out-of-date and cumbersome to use. Our new theme is sleeker, much more functional, and allows for larger images and neat widgets like the new Digital Collection RSS feed in the right sidebar, which allows you to peruse recent additions to the ever-expanding Hugh Morton Digital Collection. It was time for a change, and we hope you find it one for the better.

Series 3 (Nature & Scenic) available!

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Just a quick note to let you know that Series 3, and all the gorgeous, meditative splendor contained therein, is now available and included in the online finding aid for the Morton collection. (Note that the URL for the finding aid has changed, but the old link will redirect you to the new one). Note also that this is the first series to include 35mm slides in its inventory (we’re working on adding the slides for Series 1 & 2 retrospectively). Enjoy!

Digital collection at 3,000+ items!

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We’ve been particularly active over the past few weeks adding images to the Hugh Morton Digital Collection, which now contains more than 3,000 items. The influx is due to the fact that 1) our new digitization assistant Sam Leonard has really hit the ground running, and 2) we’ve started scanning 35mm slides in earnest. (Slides go a bit faster due to automated scanning and because we’re often able to cut-and-paste a lot of the descriptive information).

Many of the most recent additions, including the beautifully-composed image above, have been from Morton’s nature photography. (Speaking of which, processing on Series 3, Nature & Scenic, is now finished — so be on the lookout for a major addition to the Morton finding aid in the near future). We’re adding new items every day, but as of this moment the digital collection can be browsed by 419 different names, 253 different locations, and (whoa!) 951 different subjects.

Just wanted to remind you of this remarkably varied and ever-growing resource, and to encourage you, as always, to give us your feedback on the images and on the work we’re doing.

Thank you for visiting

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On November 1st, A View to Hugh quietly celebrated its 2nd birthday and during its years of life, this blog has received many visitors. So in this holiday season, we’d like to thank you for being a regular or occasional visitor. Have you ever wondered how many others of you in the blogosphere have been to this site during the first two years?  Well, 323,012, if web statistics can be believed!

“How many visits has A View to Hugh received in two years?” would seemingly be an easy question to answer, but it isn’t. Let’s use an analogy to show why. You may take a trip to see family and stay with them for the holidays. If so, let’s say during your stay that you go to the grocery store, the shopping mall, church, and a friend’s house, and that each time you left each of those places you went back to your family’s house, your primary place of visitation.

When you return home and people ask you what you did for the holiday, you would likely say something like, “I visited my family”—that is, you made one trip to visit your family. But if Webalizer, a Web usage statistics program, was keeping tabs on your comings and goings, you went to your family’s house five times—your first arrival and each time you went back to your primary visitation place.  Every time you entered your family’s front door would be counted as a “hit.” (In other words, if your family’s house was the home page for a View to Hugh, you made five “hits.”) So, our 323,012 total includes not only initial hits on the blog’s home page, but all hits to the home page.

Counting all those hits is useful to people managing Web servers. For those more interested in gauging readership, however, that tally is meaningless — especially since we know that it includes hits made by computers “crawling” Web sites, such as Google indexing for faster search results. To counter that hyperinflated number, Webalizer tallies “visits,” defined as “a sequence of requests from a uniquely identified client that expired after a certain amount of inactivity.” (The are a host of other issues related to Web statistics, but for fear of putting you to sleep, if you want to read more I’ll refer you to Wikipedia and Google where you may search the terms “Web analytics” and “Web statistics” some restless night).

Going back to the example of visiting your family: once you got there and entered any door, all your subsequent departures and returns, running in and out of the front and back doors, etc., would all be counted as one “visit” after you left their home and didn’t return for a predetermined length of time.

If you recorded all of your family visits over the course of your life, you could make a chart to see how they fluctuated over time. That’s what the chart above illustrates for A View to Hugh: the trend for the number of visits during our first two years (blue line) in comparison to our sister blog, North Carolina Miscellany (red line). At the end of two years we’ve surpassed 25,000 visits per month. That number is still inflated compared to the actual number of individual people reading the blog. (Ever read an entry on your computer at work then check it out again at home?  There’s two visits!)  What the chart does show without a doubt is the continual growth of interest in A View to Hugh, the library’s most frequently visited blog. And for that, we again express our deep appreciation to you, our readership.

P.S. If you did venture into deeper reading about Web analytics, the chart above uses the “total entry pages” calculation.

P.P.S. Happy holidays!

Morton project awarded NCHC grant

NCHCWe’ve just gotten some exciting news! I’m pleased to share that the North Carolina Collection has been awarded a grant by the North Carolina Humanities Council to support a web publishing project entitled Worth 1,000 Words: Essays on the Photographs of Hugh Morton. The grant funds will be used exclusively to hire a group of scholars and writers to produce thirteen essays (1,000-1,500-words long, based on 3-5 images), highlighting some of the predominant themes represented in the Hugh Morton photographic collection. The essays will be published online as part of this very blog, A View to Hugh. The plan is for a new essay to be posted approximately bi-weekly between January and July, 2010.

We think that the essays produced through the Worth 1,000 Words project will greatly enhance the discoverability of the collection, providing historical and cultural context and analysis of Hugh Morton’s fantastic images, while also demonstrating the value of visual resources for research and education. From the very beginning, we envisioned this project as interactive, hoping to take full advantage of the blog format. Our authors will not be writing into a void — you, as readers, will be able to comment, respond, object, ask questions . . . instead of just sitting there as static documents, the essays will provide jumping-off points for conversation, reflection, and exploration of our state’s culture and history.

We are thrilled that the Humanities Council has agreed to support this somewhat non-traditional publishing project, and would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to them!

View a list of essay authors and topics after the jump.
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Series 2 (People & Events) available!

Crowd at a football game

You knew Hugh Morton photographed legendary North Carolinians including Terry Sanford, Michael Jordan, Billy Graham, Andy Griffith, and Charles Kuralt; Azalea Queens and musicians of all stripes; and prominent national figures from John F. Kennedy to Al Gore. You definitely knew that he photographed Luther H. Hodges (NC Governor 1954-1961, and likely Morton’s most-photographed person, except for perhaps his family).

But, did you also know that Morton photographed both the Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth II? What about Ed Sullivan, or Rich Little? Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, and Shirley Chisholm? And how about Newt Gingrich with a black bear? (A die-hard Democrat himself, Morton did in fact take pictures of some Republicans — Gingrich, Reagan, Nixon, and Helms, to name a few). Did you know he took striking portraits of rural people living in the NC mountains during the 1940s-1950s? And shot at least four different Cherokee Chiefs?

This is just a tiny morsel of the feast of riches that await you in Series 2 of the Morton Collection, now included in the online finding aid and available for in-person exploration. This is the largest series (oh, how I hope) and definitely the most difficult to process — take note that subseries 2.6, “People, Identified,” contains more than 700 different named individuals!

Take a look, and — as always — give us your feedback on what/how we’re doing.

Morton digital collection update

John F. Kennedy and Robert B. Meyner, 1960

The Morton digital collection has now surpassed 2,000 items! (This 1960 image of John F. Kennedy and New Jersey Governor Robert B. Meyner just happened to be the 2,000th image added — I like to think they are applauding our efforts).

Want to be alerted as additional Morton photos are uploaded/updated? You can now “subscribe” to the Morton collection via an RSS feed. Note that you will need to have an account with a “feed reader,” such as Google Reader or Bloglines, to use the service. You’ll probably also have to clear out a few rounds of images that are not actually new to the collection, but are new to your reader. Once you’re up-to-date, you’ll only see those that are being newly added or updated.

Speaking of which — since launching the digital collection, we have received 165 comments, almost all of which have contained useful identifying information for Morton photographs in the digital collection. While that’s definitely A LOT, the comments have come from a very small number of people. We want to hear from you! Search or browse the collection by name, location, subject, or decade, then click on “feedback” at the top of the item page to share your knowledge.

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

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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).

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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!

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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?”!

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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.

Morton digital collection ONLINE, your input requested

Well, we’ve been hinting about it for some time, and now, I’m SO VERY ECSTATIC to say that the Hugh Morton digital collection is finally available on the web! I can barely contain myself.

We’re really excited to make this tool available, not only because we’ve put so much work into it, but because it provides the most direct access to Hugh Morton’s work yet. As of today, there are nearly 1,500 images in the digital collection — while this is A LOT, it’s of course only a small percentage of the Morton collection as a whole. Certain topical areas are more heavily represented than others at this point, simply because we haven’t finished processing the collection yet! We’ll be adding batches of new images regularly over the next year.

Take ‘er for a spin and let us know what you think! (Be sure to play with the 3-D Wall option, which you can activate by clicking on “View in 3D” above the thumbnail images in your search results, and take advantage of our great new image viewer by zooming in and out, clicking and dragging, and expanding and contracting the viewing area). We really do want your input, on ease of use, searchability, appearance, and of course, the images themselves. Tell us if you see something identified incorrectly or incompletely. Tell us what you’d like to see added to the digital collection. Tell us how great (or un-great) we are. You can do this either by leaving comments here on the blog, or by using our online feedback form.

Some of our plans for further developing the digital collection include: adding lots more images; adding a Google map, via which you can browse selected images geographically; and linking together all the Morton access tools (the finding aid, the blog, and the digital collection).

Special thanks go out to David Meincke (our student assistant, intrepid digitizer and gifted metadata-provider) and library staff members Kim Vassiliadis, who did the original design work, and Andy Jackson, who finalized the design and handled the behind-the-scenes computery stuff. They all did great work, and are great to work with. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this important Morton project milestone.