A Mothers’ Day Tribute

Traces of motherhood abound in most museum collections. Here are a few highlights from online collections of North Carolina subjects including the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Digital NC, and the Library of Congress:


Appearing in Paul Green’s 1937-38 production of “The Lost Colony,” these actresses represented Eleanor White Dare and Virginia Dare. Virginia Dare became iconic in North Carolina and beyond as the first baby born to English parents in America.

Davie County Public Library collection

A cabinet card photograph commemorates Ann Alberta Mortenson Mitzen’s relationship with her mother and grandmother in this 1908 studio portrait. Upon Mitzen’s death in 1990, she left her estate to the Davie County Public Library in honor of her mother, Percy Joyce Nichols Mortenson, and her grandmother, Edith Ann Latham Nichols.


This detail of photographer Margaret Morley’s work in the North Carolina mountain region shows three children clustering around a wan-looking mother. The photograph dates to circa 1900.

LC-USF34-019835-E detail

Just as Morley sought to document domestic conditions and familial relationships at the turn of the 20th century, Dorothea Lange created images of motherhood and rural working conditions for the Farm Security Administration more than a generation later. FSA photographs are now digitized and available online. They are a rich source of North Carolina imagery from the late 1930s and early 1940s. If your institution seeks to interpret this period, search the Library of Congress’ collection for documentary photographs of local life during the Depression. In this example, a Wake County mother stands in a doorway holding her baby with her “knee baby” beside her, looking out at Lange.


In Person County, Lange took this photo of a mother nursing her baby in between washing dishes and straightening up the house. The wife of a tobacco sharecropper, this mother likely wore her Sunday best to greet the photographer.

What kinds of motherhood-related images and artifacts does your institution hold in the public trust? Have you ever tried to engage the community through a special exhibition or other public program incorporating this theme?


About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on May 11, 2012, in collections access and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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