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

Imagine my excitement when I went to the 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.

Remembering WW2, part 2

It’s Memorial Day again on Monday, and I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight more of the remarkable images Hugh Morton brought back with him from his World War II service in the Pacific Islands, as a member of the 161st Signal Photography Corps (see my first WW2 post for background).

We recently scanned a batch of about 100 WW2 prints for inclusion in the Morton digital library we’re currently developing. These images are truly unlike anything else in the Morton collection — they include not only soldier portraits and combat scenes, but also some stunning views of Pacific Island people, culture, and scenery.

As with most of the Morton collection, I only wish we had better documentation! Details are maddeningly scarce.

Thankfully, there is ONE labeled photograph which allows us to identify some of Morton’s fellow enlistees, though where or when these were taken, I can’t say. Shown below enjoying some Schlitz, from left to right, are Henry van Baalen, Hugh Morton (with cat), (woman unidentified), “Lt. Shepherd” (sitting), Steve Leakos (standing), Pat Boyd, Eddie Seliady, and Frank Ilc (sp?). Maybe someone out there Googling for their relatives will find this and make a meaningful discovery?

Aloha Kalikimaka

Beach with lighthouse, Hawaii, 1978

After making it through a rather blustery November, I’m reminded of when I boldly decided to escape the cold Sierra Nevada Mountains and relax on the black sand beaches of Hawaii. The Mortons had the same brilliant idea over Christmas 1978, when they took a trip to the islands of Oahu and Kauai. There are stunning pictures of double rainbows over a misty Honolulu, the USS Arizona Memorial, and surfing crystal turquoise waters.

While in Hawaii, Morton visited the grave of Ernest Taylor Pyle at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Ernie Pyle was a journalist in both world wars, stationed in the Pacific Theater during WWII.  I’m guessing that their paths must have crossed during that time? I haven’t been able to find a connection, but if anyone can confirm this it would be appreciated.

Fern Grotto, Wailua River State Park, Hawaii, 1978
The photo above I found floating loose at the bottom of a box, one of the many orphans I have had to match to its roll. Once I found the Hawaii batch, I was able to easily recognize where it belonged. It shows the Fern Grotto in Wailua River State Park on Kauai — this is a large lava cave that ferns took over, growing on every surface. I’m not certain if Hugh had pulled this from the rest of the roll for a presentation, or because he felt it wasn’t up to par. (His “rejects” usually look pretty great to me).

Hang gliding, Hawaii, 1978

In the late 70s and early 80s, Hugh took numerous photos of hang gliding, mostly at Grandfather (the home of the National Hang Gliding Championship for a few years).  The comments we received on a previous post tell the exciting story behind one of the hang gliding photos from Hawaii, which shows Morton himself taking flight! The image above was one that was able to capture the beautiful waters, and the contrast between the white sands and dark coral reefs.
Maybe it’s the temps in the 20s forecast for Chapel Hill, or the thought of a Mai Tai, but Hawaii is definitely calling for me to visit again soon.  Right, Elizabeth?

Editorial Note from Elizabeth: I thought it was pretty funny when Amber said she wanted to write this post, because I am actually off to Hawaii myself next week! I’ll be doing, um, highly serious and intensive Morton-related research. No relaxing whatsoever. (Do you think the IRS will buy that?)

Remembering WW2

Memorial Day seems a most appropriate occasion to highlight some of the images documenting Hugh Morton’s World War II experiences. The broad strokes of the story are well known: aware that he would end up in the military and hoping to receive an assignment in photography, Morton enlisted in October 1942 and was first posted at the U.S. Army Anti-Aircraft School at Camp Davis, taking pictures for training manuals.
When he was sent to New Caledonia to report to the 161st Army Signal Corps Photo Company, he was surprised when his captain looked at him and said, “Morton, you look like a movie man.” (This was the first time he picked up a movie camera, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last—future blog posts will explore some of Morton’s later adventures in filmmaking). Since his wartime film footage went directly to the Army, we don’t have any of it in the collection here at UNC—but we do have a small number of still images taken by and of Morton during these eventful years.
Here’s Morton, in a photo by an unknown photographer, with his movie camera atop a B-24, the “Go Gettin’ Gal“:

Hugh Morton with movie camera atop plane “Go Gettin’ Gal,” World War II, early 1940s

In 1944 Morton obtained an enjoyable assignment covering Bob Hope, Frances Langford, and Jerry Colonna as they entertained the troops at New Caledonia. In the booklet Sixty Years with a Camera, Morton described these as “three of the happiest days of my life…I rode in the same car with Bob and Jerry…during which they were cracking jokes and practicing their lines. It was a fun time.”

Frances Langford and Bob Hope entertaining military personnel in New Caledonia, 1944 [cropped]

From there, he was sent briefly to Guadalcanal and Bougainville, which may be when the following images were snapped (the first is by Morton; the second shows Morton with his camera and a group of Pacific island children, taken by an unknown photographer):

Man climbing palm tree in the Pacific islands, possibly Bougainville, during World War II (early 1940s)

Hugh Morton showing his movie camera to some Pacific island children, possibly at Bougainville, during World War II (early 1940s)

Morton then got his most intense assignment when he was sent to photograph the 25th Infantry Division as they invaded Luzon, in the Philippines, in early 1945. He obtained a few still shots of combat, and covered General Douglas MacArthur when he came to Luzon to inspect the 25th Division:

General Douglas MacArthur conferring with field officers, Luzon, Philippines, January 1945

Shortly after MacArthur’s visit, Morton was wounded in an explosion—an incident for which he received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, with citation, for exposing himself to danger in order to obtain high-quality, closeup images of the front lines. Morton recounts the incident in UNC-TV’s “Biographical Conversations” (video available online), claiming that the Speed Graphic camera he held in front of his face helped save him from further injury.

Hugh Morton (right, arm in sling) wounded, with photo team, March 1945

A note of interest: the Library of Congress holds the papers and photos of another member of the 161st Photographic Company, Charles Rosario Restifo. Be sure to check out Restifo’s detailed autobiography, wherein he discusses his training, camp life, and experiences in the Pacific, many of which would have been similar to or the same as Morton’s. I don’t believe Restifo is in the picture above, and he doesn’t mention Morton by name in the memoir, but it sounds like they were on many of the same assignments—in fact, if you look on page 98 of Restifo’s book, the image of MacArthur appears to be the exact same image as Morton’s (above)! Not just similar, but identical. Not sure how this happened.

One last Memorial Day musing: Morton didn’t leave his WW2 experiences behind him when he left the Pacific. As I discussed in a previous blog post, he deserves a lot of credit for the establishment of the USS North Carolina as a memorial to North Carolinians who died in WW2 service.

That's serendipity for you

I am fond of serendipity—rooted, perhaps, in the photographer part of me. Most of my personal photography comes from exploration, not from preconceptions. Serendipity is not, however, aimless wondering. You have to be “tuned in” to what may present itself.
Unidentified students, possibly members of The Daily Tar Heel staff, circa May 1942
Last Friday was the first day we had students from the School of Information and Library Sciences (SILS) digital library class here to scan negatives. For the material to be scanned, Elizabeth and I selected in advance Hugh Morton’s negatives made during his years as a student at UNC. We thought as students themselves they’d have some connection to the images, and it would give us a glimpse into student life on campus in the pre- and early World War II era.
While setting up the workspace on Friday morning, I wanted to walk through the work flow in preparation for the students arrival. I picked out a negative—the image above—that looked too challenging for them to scan right off the bat because the faces and lighter clothing were overexposed. Scanning it gave me some fits, so I decided to try again later. I did, however, recognize on the cover of a Daily Tar Heel newspaper (held by a woman who may be Olive Consecu, secretarial staff member of the student publication The Carolina Magazine) a scene similar to a Hugh Morton negative that I had scanned months earlier while “rummaging” (see below).
N.R.O.T.C students in training, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, circa 1942.
At the end of the day, I launched back into rescanning the negative. With a better scan in hand, I zoomed into the image to see if I could read the issue date, but all I could discern was that the month had a short name, presumably “May,” and that, with the exercising trainees in naval uniforms, it was likely after 7 December 1941. Then, without thought, I recognized that the picture to the left, on the back page, was another Morton negative that I had scanned during that same rummaging phase.
So off I went to the bound volumes of the DTH. At first I could not find the issue. The newsprint is very fragile, so I was carefully handling only the tops of the pages, looking for the full-bleed printed image. Every page was columnar. For each publication volume, however, there are three bound sets. One of the three bound sets was extremely fragile and detached from the spine . . . .
Bound volume of The Daily Tar Heel, 1941-1942 (volume 50)
While gingerly turning pages . . . Voila! I uncovered a special edition smaller than the regular daily issues.
Cover of the The Daily Tar Heel special edition “Your University—Servant to the State” 10 May 1942.
Entitled Your University—Servant of the State, the issue’s twenty pages feature UNC’s shifting roles within the war effort. As then DTH editor Orville Campbell stated, “This is your University. Those who run it for you know that you want them to do everything possible to prepare the youth of this state and nation for service. To that end they are working. We who are students feel that the story of how your University serves the state, the nation, and you needs to be told. To that end The Daily Tar Heel, the students’ newspaper, is publishing this special edition.”
The newspaper credits Hugh Morton, student photographer, for the cover photograph of “NROTC boys going though some physical arm conditioning exercises.” So while the negative above is not the same image as the photograph on the cover, both were very likely shot at the same scene.
Sir Gerald Campbell, British Consul General to the United States, surrounded by UNC students.
A quick examination of the negatives we set aside for the SILS project revealed more images similar to those that appeared in the DTH special edition. Yesterday’s group of students scanned a negative of Sir Gerald Campbell, then British Consul General to the United States, surrounded by eager students (see above). Again it is not the same image as the one published.
Page 20 of the The Daily Tar Heel special edition “Your University—Servant of the State” 10 May 1942.
The caption for the photograph on the back page of the special edition (pictured above) begins, “Penny and pound wise is Dan Martin, self-help senior who this year started a cooperative movement for the budget boys. . . .” Martin was an instrumental player in the first cooperative living project at UNC. He was one of a group of students who moved into a house on Mallett Street in an effort to “fight down rising costs of living.” A scan from a negative with Martin in a very slightly different pose follows.
Dan Martin weighing produce in a Chapel Hill grocery, circa 1942.
To wrap things up, let’s go back to the negative that started all this. Note the “LET’S TALK CAROLINA” button worn by the fellow on the far right (detail below).
The front page of the regular May 10th edition of the DTH features an editorial, “Talk Carolina,” by Orville Campbell that described the university, confronting dropping enrollment for the fall in the face of war, as being “on the threshold of institutional pathopsychoneurosis.” He continued, “We are the doctors, the cure-all smart boys, if you will, that can change it to an electric magic portal.” Calling upon UNC’s 3,500 students to be salesmen for the university, he proclaimed “That war means clamps for Carolina if we don’t let our friends and their friends in on what we know about it.” The following day, the DTH reported that several campus organizations had rallied behind the idea and that buttons had been ordered for sale at cost. Roland B. Parker, Dean of Men, bought the first button on May 18th.
A trove of information serendipitously discovered . . . just because a negative looked to be a bit too challenging to scan!

NC's "Immortal Showboat"

USS North Carolina, Wilmington, NC, early 1960sIn honor of the recently-opened exhibit, Showboat”: The USS North Carolina (BB 55), at the North Carolina Museum of History, and since I just happened to be “passing” through this particular batch of negatives, I decided to highlight a few of my favorite Morton images related to the USS North Carolina.
Morton was enlisted in 1960 by his good friend and then-governor Luther Hodges to spearhead the ultimately successful campaign to preserve the battleship as a memorial to World War II veterans. The article “Saving Our Ship” on the USS North Carolina Memorial Web site provides background on the campaign and Morton’s leadership, noting in particular that “Morton’s drive to control the administrative costs of undertaking such a large campaign led to savings such as using his young son on campaign posters rather than paying for a model.” The image below must be a mock-up of one of those posters.  [The boy in the image below is not one of Morton’s sons, but there are images in the collection showing Jim Morton holding a model of the USS NC that were possibly used on campaign posters.]
Mock-up of ad for “Save our Ship” Campaign for the USS NC, probably 1960
This last image depicts John Weaver working on two busts for the USS NC Museum (likenesses of FDR, Chester Nimitz, MacArthur, and Truman were made—not sure which two these are). [Correction: This is not John Weaver, but a Linville artist named Coffey, and these heads were not created for the USS NC. Just goes to show that an archivist can’t always trust the contextual information that comes with a document! Thanks to Julia Morton for clarifying.]
John Weaver carving busts for the USS NC Museum, early 1960s
One last note: as I was just proofreading the contents of this post, I happened to notice today’s date: December 6. Tomorrow is the 66th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Crazy coincidence strikes again on “A View to Hugh!”