Exhibit, Lecture to Showcase Carolina's 'Noble Trees'

Trees at Carolina are the subject of an exhibit that guides visitors across campus and back through time.

“Noble Trees, Traveled Paths: The Carolina Landscape Since 1793” will be on view in the North Carolina Collection Gallery of Wilson Library through May 31.

The free public exhibit presents photographs, drawings and publications that document campus trees and landscapes from the University’s earliest days through the present.

Inspiration for the exhibit came from the 2009 book The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Noble Grove: A Walking Tour of Campus Trees, by Michael Dirr, professor emeritus of horticulture at the University of Georgia.

The Carolina Alumni Review also featured the campus’s trees as its cover story in July/August 2009.

Dirr will lead a walking tour of the Carolina campus at 3:30 p.m. April 22, leaving from the front steps of Wilson Library. At 5:45 p.m., he will speak about the book in a free public program in Wilson Library, sponsored by the N.C. Collection. The talk will be the 2010 Gladys Hall Coates University History Lecture. A reception and exhibit viewing will begin at 5 p.m.

Those associated with Carolina at its founding recognized the beauty of the campus and its trees. In 1805, a decade after UNC opened its doors, the Board of Trustees first proposed hiring someone to “trim the trees in the grove … in a proper and judicious manner.”

A facsimile of those minutes is on view in the exhibit, along with reproductions of a 1796 description of campus by UNC’s first president, Joseph Caldwell; an 1824 letter from professor and University bursar (treasurer) Elisha Mitchell recording his concern over the poor condition of campus trees; and a letter Mitchell wrote to the trustees in 1849, observing that trees “have a good influence upon the manners of young men.”

Historic drawings and photographs document the development of campus during the 19th and 20th centuries, along with the sometimes contentious efforts to preserve trees during campus expansions of the past 50 years. The exhibit notes the work of the 2005 Task Force on Landscape Heritage and Plant Diversity and the ongoing efforts of UNC’s grounds services department.

The exhibit is free to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, except on University holidays. For exhibit information, contact the North Carolina Collection at (919) 962-0104 or

For program information, contact Liza Terll, Friends of the Library, or (919) 962-4207.

More online…

  • In the Grove: We are entrusted with the care of things that came before us, some of them very much alive.
    From the July/August 2009 Carolina Alumni Review, available online to Carolina Alumni members.

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