There is only one known existing image of the iconic Old Well that dates back past the pillars and marble to when a wooden structure was simply known as ‘the well.’
Taken for former University of North Carolina President Kemp Plummer Battle, and wedged between the pages of a 120-year-old photo album, the faded photo is among a collection of images showcasing 19th century life in Chapel Hill.
‘This is the most comprehensive set of images from a set period of time,’ said Stephen Fletcher, photo archivist for the North Carolina Collection.’This would be the earliest set of town scenes.’
Photograph archivists at the Wilson Library’s North Carolina Collection recently reorganized and relaunched the photo album online to give viewers a full experience of the 19th century artifact. All 74 images of the book have been scanned and formatted into a virtual album, which allows researchers the ability to flip through the book like intended when it was created in 1894.
‘We made a conscious effort to be able to show the album as an album,’ Fletcher said. ‘We didn’t just photograph the individual images. We wanted people to see what the album looks like and be able to recreate the experience of turning the pages and seeing the images.’
“Century-old photo album shows Chapel Hill’s history” by Brandon Bieltz for “Spotlight” section of UNC-Chapel Hill website. Library staff have experimented with restoring details and color to some of the images in the Battle album. One example is below: