News & Events

Rural Heritage Museum to Display Photographs of Margaret Morley

The Rural Heritage Museum at Mars Hill University has announced it will present an exhibition entitled The Carolina Mountains: The Photography of Margaret Morley. Featuring more than 50 prints made from the 244 original Appalachian mountain photographs by Margaret Morley, this exhibition comes from a collection of works donated to the North Carolina Museum of History in 1914.

  Morley.Bee Gums
"Bee Gums" by Margaret Morley

Margaret Morley arrived in western North Carolina’s mountains around the turn of the twentieth century, just as railroads, industry, tourists, and missionaries were introducing modernity to the remote region. A writer, illustrator, educator, and biologist, Morley realized the traditional way of life for the mountaineer was passing and set out to capture it with words and images before it disappeared.

Making the tiny Polk County town of Tryon her base of operations, Morley leisurely roamed the mountains for a dozen years, closely observing and photographing the plants and animals as well as the people while they went about their everyday lives.

In 1913 Houghton Mifflin published Morley’s detailed descriptions and images of her newfound friends and homeland in The Carolina Mountains. The book became an immediate success and, nearly a century later, is still considered one of the best works about the Mountain region. “This exhibition presents an exceptional look at the people and landscape of the mountain region at the turn of the last century” said Rural Heritage Museum Director, Les Reker. “Ms. Morley’s brilliant and timeless wilderness photography, as well as her sensitive depiction of the mountain folks, brings to life the unique quality of life that was once prevalent in this region.”

Margaret Warner Morley was born on February 17, 1858, in Montrose, Iowa, but she grew up in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from New York City Normal College in 1878, she pursued graduate studies in biology and taught or lectured in five states. During that time, she became an internationally known expert on agriculture and beekeeping.

But Morley is perhaps best remembered as a writer, illustrator, and photographer. She penned nineteen children’s books about nature studies, many of which she also illustrated. The Carolina Mountains was her only work for adults and the only book that featured her photography. She died on December 12, 1923, a decade after its publication. The prints on display are accompanied by passages from The Carolina Mountains.

The RURAL HERITAGE MUSEUM is open daily (except Mondays) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment. It is located in Montague Hall: from Asheville take US 19 (26W) North to exit 11, then left on Rt. 213 1.3 miles to the campus of Mars Hill University, a 20 minute drive. Admission is free.
Mailing address:
Rural Heritage Museum
Box 6705
Mars Hill University
Mars Hill, North Carolina, 28754.

For more information or to reserve a group tour, please call (828) 689-1400. Visit the Museum’s website: or find us on Facebook.