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

12 thoughts on “A processor's (concluding) perspective”

  1. What I would like to know is, will you be maintaining the Kodak professional-level slide scanner? Searching for a consumer-grade slide scanner that would accept Carousel trays (it doesn’t exist) is what led me to your wonderful site.

  2. I wanted to state publicly what a wonderful job Elizabeth did on this project, and how respected her work is in the environmental community. I have met many, many supporters of conservation who live in and around the mountains of North Carolina who have a special connection to and love for Hugh Morton and his photography. There are photographs in this collection that document important conservation benchmarks that must (and now will) be remembered. I would like to share something Crae Morton said to me – just a month ago, I saw him and mentioned Elizabeth and her archival adventure, and he tole me just how happy the family is that she was so committed to the project and did such a wonderful job. Thank you, Elizabeth!

  3. Hello Elizabeth,
    Sorry I have not looked at A View to Hugh for so long. Mom is without internet in the summer, so will have to tell her that you are winding down. We are so grateful to you, and we only feel slightly guilty that we left it all for you to clean up. You’ve heard it before, but for late arrivals to this blog, Hugh Morton’s catalog was in horrible disarray because he was always more interested in the next photo than the last.

  4. Hello Elizabeth,
    I just wanted to thank you for such a wonderful job. The pictures take me so far back to a time I spent working for Mr. Morton. I actually have photographic evidence now of a story I’ve told my family many times. The picture of Hobo up on the big rock with his handler painting the rock with honey is me. I’ll always remember that day, because at one point Hobo and I were both on the small rock and it shifted. It scared us both !! I also appreciate that you included the Fess Parker picures. Mr. Morton knew I was a huge Daniel Boone fan and he showed them to me one rainy day on the mountain. I have always hoped to see them again and now 30 years later here they are. Thank you so much for my trip down memory lane. I’ll revist often…. Capt. Greg Daniels, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

  5. Congratulations Elizabeth on your magnificent work with the Morton Collection. Those of us who knew and admired Hugh Morton will forever be in your debt. I would also like to thank you for letting me be a small part of the process as a volunteer.
    When I was planning for my retirement, several of my retired friends said, “you’ll need to find something that you enjoy doing to occupy some of your time.” I figured since I have several hobbies, retirement would be fun. I never guessed that I would find something that would include all my many interests and would be far more than fun…plus in the process I would get to know and become friends with some incredibly talented people. But that’s exactly what happened.
    When the fall 2007 issue of “Windows” magazine arrived in the mail, I was pleased to see pictured on the front cover my dear friend Hugh Morton. I knew that his photographic collection had been donated to the NC Collection at UNC, but I figured they would file away the many boxes of his pictures and that would be that. But the magazine indicated that the photographs would catalogued and digitized and made available to the public. I remembered seeing many of his pictures in magazines and newspapers and books. What a fantastic job that must be to come to work each day and your job would be to look at Hugh Morton photographs. The magazine said Elizabeth Hull would be heading up the project. So on December 12, 2007 I sent an email telling her how pleased I was that the Morton photos were in good hands and offered possible help in the identification process. In the meantime I was able to offer a comment every now and then on the website “A View To Hugh.”
    Then, in late September of 2008 I offered a suggestion for a post and to my surprise the idea was accepted and Stephen Fletcher wrote a really nice post on the 1949 UNC – Notre Dame football game.
    On October 8, 2008, I received an email from Elizabeth and she asked if I would be interested in volunteering some time to help identify some of the football photos. On October 31st I made my first visit to the Morton Collection.
    So here we are, several visits, several posts and almost 2 years later, and I can honestly say it has been a labor of love and honor to have worked on the collection and I look forward to adding a comment or two as we move forward. So again, Elizabeth, thank you and all your team members for a marvelous journey. You guys are the best!
    -Jack Hilliard

  6. Elizabeth, We will never be able to properly thank you for the wonderful job you have done with the Morton collection which was in such an unholy mess when you received it. Thanks go, too, to the people and organizations who funded the project of organizing it. Hugh’s photographs had taken over three rooms in our house and most of his office at the Mountain when Bob and Stephen came to collect them, and I am altogether aware of what you had to deal with. God bless!

  7. After reading Elizabeth’s post about her work launching the archive of Hugh Morton’s important photo collection, I wanted to add my own sincere thanks for her talented execution of this initial task. Speaking as one of the essayists whose work she coordinated, I can tell you that she was the consummate professional when it came to working with the writers and squiring their various viewpoints into a thoughtful product that nicely positions the collection. Thanks for your work on all phases of this, Elizabeth. I enjoyed collaborating with you.

  8. I am so tremendously impressed by how those shelves look! They are so clean and neat and organized. I can remember my first tour of those shelves and feeling incredibly overwhelmed by the mass of dusty piles to wade through. You should be so proud of what you’ve accomplished! And if aren’t satisfied with how it turned out, just read back through these blogs and take stock of all that you have accomplished. You did a fabulous job! Thank you for letting me share a small portion of it.
    P.S. I drove the parkway a few weeks ago through GMTN and it was just like his photos! I’ve now seen it in every season.

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