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NEWS

For immediate useOct. 20, 1997 -- No. 764

President James K. Polk's portrait now on display at Morehead Planetarium

CHAPEL HILL -- Morehead Planetarium has borrowed a portrait of U.S. President James K. Polk to fill a temporary vacant spot in its Genevieve Morehead Memorial Rotunda. The Polk portrait now is on public display.

Many people are unaware that planetarium hosts a small but eclectic collection of portraits in the rotunda. The collection, originally belonging to Genevieve Morehead, includes a portrait by Sir Henry Raeburn, which now is on loan for exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh and will be exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London before returning to the Morehead Building.

During the absence of the Raeburn portrait, the Morehead Planetarium arranged to borrow Polk's portrait from the collection of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies Foundation.

As far back as 1819, the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies began commissioning portraits of distinguished alumni. One of the most distinguished members of the Dialectic Society alumni was James Knox Polk, who graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1818 and served as 11th president of the United States from 1845 to 1849. Polk's health was undermined from the hard work of being president and he died just a few months after leaving office. He was the only UNC-CH alumnus to hold the nation's highest elected office.

Polk's portrait will be on display at the planetarium through Thanksgiving, and will return to its usual location in the Dialectic Chambers, where the present day societies still meet weekly.

Trustees of the John Motley Morehead Foundation recently honored Polk with a statue in the Morehead Rotunda. The statue was dedicated on University Day Oct. 12, the 204th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone at Old East, the oldest public university building in the country.

For recorded show information on all Star Theater presentations, call 919-549-6863 or visit the Web site at http://www.unc.edu/depts/mhplanet/ .

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Morehead Planetarium contact: Dr. Lee Shapiro, 919-962-1237

News Services broadcast contact: Karen Moon

News Services print contact: Karen Stinneford