From Grandfather Mountain to Chapel Hill

Hugh Morton standing next to an enlarger.

The life’s work of photographer Hugh Morton has a new home: the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It took two trips in four vans filled to the gills to bring it all from the Morton residence near Grandfather Mountain to the university where Morton spent his freshman through junior years as a student. His enlistment in the United States Army in September 1942, at the outset of his senior year, pulled him away to the Pacific and on to what became a celebrated life, but he returned to the campus he loved time and time and time again—and likely always with his camera.
It’s also likely that Morton had his camera with him everywhere else he went. We all look for something to “click” in our lives; for Hugh Morton it was his cameras’ shutters. We think he clicked them about half a million times. It takes a lot of shutter clicks to fill four vans. Morton made many photographs and shot a lot of motion picture film, too. It will take a good deal of time—measured in years—to organize and make available for use the results of so much clicking. Sometimes I “shutter” just thinking about it.
There is so much interest in the Morton collection. The first inquiries started before we opened more than a handful of boxes. The time needed to make such a voluminous collection available compared to the demand for its use beckoned for a non-traditional approach to collection processing. The way it’s “supposed” to be done is to open the collection only once it is completed. To make material accessible as soon as possible, we are planning to make parts of the collection available incrementally as we complete them.
We also needed a way to keep people informed about our progress and offer glimpses into the collection’s wealth. We are enthused by the public interest and want to transform it into community involvement. So we developed this blog to meet those needs and we hope it “clicks” with you!

3 thoughts on “From Grandfather Mountain to Chapel Hill”

  1. I was a camper and later a counselor at Camp Yonahnoka in Linville from 1959-1966. Mr. Morton took all the photographs each year for the Camp’s catalogue — activities photos, group photos, and individual camper and counselor photos.
    The photos of campers were taken of three campers at a time and cropped later; in the catalogue your photo would be listed alphabetically. All were published and sent out to the homes of everyone who had been there the previous summer.
    I’d kill to have those catalogues today.

  2. If you ever get the desire to see some of those catalogs, the North Carolina Collection has several from the late 1940s through the early 1950s. You can search the UNC Library catalog using the keyword “Yonahnoka” to see which issues are in the collection.

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