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ECU offers closer look at Wright Brothers' hidden images

(Nov. 3, 2003)   —   Details of the Wright Brothers' historic days on the sandy dunes of Kill Devil Hills can be viewed as never before as East Carolina University launches the Wright Brothers Centennial Digital Exhibit.

Open to the public Nov. 17, the display was prepared by ECU's Joyner Library in observance of the Dec. 17 First Flight Centennial, and includes the Wright brothers' diary entries, weather data and more than 100 image details from photographs taken by the Wrights in North Carolina

Dr. Larry Tise, a world renowned expert in the history of flight and the Wilbur and Orville Wright Visiting Distinguished Professor of History at East Carolina University, worked with the university to identify the hidden images. While the images show never before seen data about the famous brothers, they also paint a completely different picture of Kill Devil Hills during the early 20th Century — one with more buildings and community activities than was previously thought, he said.

"For a long time we assumed it was an isolated life," Tise said. "It's not quite as bleak as we traditionally think of it."

The "Hidden Images" section of the exhibit includes black and white photographs taken by the Wrights between 1900 and 1911 of life on the Outer Banks.

The images, property of the Library of Congress and Wright State University, were scanned in a high-resolution format and provided to ECU. The quality of the prints permits the undistorted enlargement of the images, allowing for a previously overlooked dose of detail, such as patterns on suspenders, embroidered name patches and reading materials.

"It's like stepping into the life of someone 100 years ago and peeking into what they really saw with their own eyes," said Diana Williams, digital projects manager at Joyner Library. Details include:

* As the Wright Brothers gathered around the plane with journalists and assistants, one man braces himself from the wind with a gloved hand near his neck. His other hand is in his coat pocket where a Virginian Pilot newspaper is folded.
* One photo shows the brothers — dressed in their daily dapper vests and bowties — hand drilling on the plane.
* A photo of the brothers' kitchen hints of their orderly tendencies with all can labels facing the front of the cupboard and a half-dozen teacups tilted left on hooks.
* One photo shows seven members of the Life Saving Service standing at attention. A wooly dog sits by their feet. The organization was made up of fishermen and responded to shipwrecks on the barrier islands. Members of the Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Service assisted the Wright Brothers and witnessed the Dec. 17, 1903 flight.

The online exhibit will officially open to the public on Nov. 17, but reporters are welcome to view it as a "work in progress" for research and information purposes. The exhibition is located

Sample high-resolution images of the "hidden images" are available for publication at this site.


Contact: ECU News Bureau | 252-328-6481