Many of NC State botanist B.W. Wells slides, including this one selected to display in the new chancellor's residence, were hand-colored by Wells himself.

Deck The Halls With A Story

The hunt for artwork that tells the story of our state’s largest university didn’t start too differently for the chancellor’s residence’s interior designers than it does for many of us – looking into our past. While we might hang prints that were handed down from parents and grandparents, NC State also had a legacy to consider. Design Lines – the interior design firm tasked with outfitting the new home – chose pieces for the residence by exploring the rich history of NC State in one of the university’s secret gems:

D.H. Hill Library’s special collections research center.

Rob MacNeill, designer with Design Lines, spent time hunting through treasures in the special collection’s vault to find pieces that would speak to the university’s past and present.

“For the chancellor’s residence, I didn’t want to go the obvious route of hanging pictures of different NC State buildings or landmarks – we wanted something different,” MacNeill says. “There were so many sketches and prints that spoke to NC State’s roots as a land-grant university that serves the state of North Carolina. And that’s the story we wanted to tell through art.”

For instance, MacNeill selected some prints (made from original slides) that show wood fibers – perfect for the university’s history and commitment to forestry and natural resources:

And then there’s beautiful photographs of North Carolina plants shot by Bertram Whittier (B.W.) Wells (1884-1978) – a famed American botanist who headed the botany department from 1919 to 1949. His passion led him to write The Natural Gardens of North Carolina – with help from the North Carolina Garden Club – which gives an account of North Carolina plant life and advocates for the study of plants in their natural environments. Wells took hundreds of photographs of plants from North Carolina and beyond and converted them into lantern slides to accompany his lectures. Many of his slides, including the ones selected for the home, were hand-colored by Wells himself

And it doesn’t hurt that these beautiful prints will make another one of NC State’s favorite plant-lovers, horticulturist and chancellor, Randy Woodson, feel right at home.

MacNeill also found two extremely rare portfolios created by French designer Eugene Alain (E.A.) Séguy. Séguy’s Papillons {Butterflies} collection, published in the 1920s, was produced using the pochoir technique which entails hand-coloring each plate through a large number of stencils. So how does a famed French artist have special portfolios housed in NC State’s library? Turns out, after a little bit of digging, that the collection was acquired to help support  NC State’s highly regarded entomological rare book collection. (Who knew?!) The collection has been built over decades with support from faculty and donors committed to NC State’s research and teaching in the field of entomology.

And then who can forget another big nod to NC State’s history –  our athletics. MacNeill grabbed some great prints to be used in more casual places in the home. Aren’t these fun?

So there you have it – from football advertisements to detailed wood fiber prints – a glimpse of some of the great art to be displayed in the new residence.

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