The visit so inspired her that she moved to Tryon, south of Asheville, by the end of the decade.
The well-known biologist, writer, illustrator and educator spent the next 12 years exploring the region and recording scenes of everyday life in captivating photographs and delightful prose.
With pen and camera, Morley traveled throughout the lofty land, observing its natural wonders and befriending the mountain people.
In 1913 Houghton Mifflin published her impressions in "The Carolina Mountains," which was an immediate success. Still considered one of the best books about the region, it has recently been reprinted by Land of the Sky Books. Today, Morley's words and images provide an intimate look at a way of life that has vanished in the high country.
A year after her book's publication, Morley donated 244 of her original photographs to the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh.
On Tuesday, July 11, the museum opened an exhibit, titled "The Carolina Mountains: Photography of Margaret Morley," featuring more than 50 prints made from photographs in this collection. Many of the images will be on view for the first time.
The exhibit will run until July 15, 2007, and admission is free.
"This exhibit reflects great legacies -- the legacy of Margaret Morley's talent and genius, the museum's legacy of stewardship for caring for the photographs these many decades, and the legacy of creativity of current museum staff members who envisioned and produced this exhibit," says Elizabeth F. Buford, director, N.C. Museum of History and Division of State History Museums.
Morley's book captured the land and the primitive ways of mountaineers, just as railroads, industry, tourists and home missionaries were introducing change.
The worldly woman traveled on horseback and by foot to reach remote areas that were otherwise inaccessible. Here, she became friends with the mountain people, who often invited her to stay in their homes. In fact, Morley so gained their trust that she was even allowed to photograph a moonshine still.
Her compelling images in the exhibit reveal glimpses of life around the turn of the 20th century, such as children in a one-room "book-larnin" school, a farmer cutting sorghum, and a sunbonneted woman washing clothes by a stream.
Engaging prose from "The Carolina Mountains" will accompany each photograph. Like azaleas bursting into bloom across a mountainside, Morley's vivid descriptions bring to life the colors, sights and smells of the high country. For example, she describes the Blue Ridge Mountains:
"The Blue Ridge! This battlement of heaven was not named by accident. It was named Blue because there was no other name for it. It is blue; tremendously, thrillingly blue; tenderly, evasively blue."
A dozen exhibit artifacts from the bygone era will reflect the hard work and self-sufficiency of mountain residents. A few items are foreign to today's vocabulary, such as a battling board (a wooden paddle used to loosen dust and dirt from laundry before washing) and a bee gum (a beehive made from the trunk of a sweet gum or a sour gum tree). Other artifacts include a 1904 copy of a children's book by Morley, a molasses jug (often used for moonshine), a cast-iron wash kettle, and Seroco and Kodak cameras similar to the ones Morley or her contemporaries may have used.
Plan to see The Carolina Mountains: Photography of Margaret Morley, and rediscover the allure of western North Carolina and "heights so divinely blue that you seem about to enter some dream world through their magical portals."
For more information, call 919-807-7900 or access ncmuseumofhistory.org.
The Carolina Mountains will be available for purchase in the Museum Shop.
The N.C. Museum of History's hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
The museum is part of the Division of State History Museums, Office of Archives and History, an agency of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.
The department's Web site is www.nc culture.com.
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