Save Our Wilkes County History Videos Need Some Saving

I just came across almost 200 DVDs that contain video interviews form the Save Our Wilkes County History Committee. I am assuming these were copies donated to the Wilkes Genealogical Society for preservation. About 50 DVDs were sitting in a bin in our vault and another 150 or so tucked in a filing cabinet. Some may be duplicates, I have not gone through them all yet.

This was a governmental work for hire by the Wilkes County Commissioners in 2006. Unfortunately, some of these DVDs are unusable due to disc rot.

I know the Pardue Library at the Wilkes Community College has these on their shelves for public use. I also wonder if their DVDs are beginning to rot. I see that they list 12 of the Save Our Wilkes County History videos on YouTube in low-definition format. It has also been mentioned that these videos are available in the NC Live archive, but I only see 12 that have been made available. There is a Youtube Channel called saveourwilkeshistory. They have 64 videos listed, but I am not sure that is everything and some of these are not very good copies.

This was quite a grand project by our county commissioners and all those involved at the time. It is a shame these DVD’s are just sitting and rotting away. I am not sure if all of them had been put online for public consumption.

I have a goal to see if I can extract what I have, edit, clean up, digitally enhance, and transcode to a higher resolution in order to better preserve this history.

If I can extract these, I will start putting them up on our YouTube Channel.

Wilkes Genealogical Society – YouTube

These videos were not that sharp to begin with and they are only standard definition 480 x 720 for DVD.

I may be able to successfully re-encode and upscale to 4k definition. I am also using digital filters to sharpen a bit, boost the colors, and stabilize the video. There was annoying tracking and interlacing lines at the bottom of some of the videos. I cropped that out. I also attempted to clean up and converted the sound to a universal aac format. The films will still be blurry, but I don’t have expensive AI software to run it through to reconstruct the whole video. Someone else can take on that project or buy me the software and pay me for that job. I am volunteering my time preserving what we have.

For each 20 minutes it takes about an hour to clean up the video and audio. It then has to be re-encoded into a universal mp4 video and acc audio format. Then it is uploaded and processed by YouTube. Total time is about 80 minutes per 20 minutes of raw video.

Here is the link to the Wilkes Genealogical Society YouTube Channel.

History of the Project

Excerpt From rom the Wilkes county Heritage Developement Plan.

The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area management entity challenged Wilkes County to develop a collaborative community-driven heritage development plan. The county Heritage Council was formed with the goal of identifying sustainable projects that preserve, conserve and celebrate the unique natural, cultural, historic, recreation and agricultural resources of our county. The council members came together for their first meeting in February 2005, and have met on a regular basis since to formulate the Wilkes Heritage Plan. The council gathered ideas from community leaders and members and began formulating plans by first building an inventory of heritage sites and attractions that correlate with the thematic areas identified in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area legislation. The Wilkes Heritage Plan incorporates initiatives that specifically identify projects that will stimulate private investment and coordinate opportunities for partnership and collaboration, as well as tell the story of Wilkes County. The initiatives
identified address small business development, entrepreneurship, regional partnerships, sustainability of existing heritage tourism attractions and events, include plans for revitalization of downtowns and railways, and utilize the recreational opportunities of the
Yadkin River.

The Save Our Wilkes County History Committee was then formed and instituted by the 2006 Wilkes County Commissioners with an initial grant of $5000 that was given by the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. The project was incorporated into The Wilkes County Heritage Council in order to ascertain more grant money from BRNHA to finish the project. Below is the synopsis of the final grant request.

The Grant Request

Project Narrative:

The need to record oral histories of Wilkes County residents is urgent. Approximately 10,000 World War II veterans reside in the county and recording their stories before they fade away is vital to preserving an important element of Wilkes County history, In 2002, a Pearl Harbor Day celebration hosted by the Wilkes County Public Library and the VFW drew scores of World War II veterans and their contemporaries, proving that Wilkes possesses a large number of individuals eager to reminisce about their experiences. Another segment of the population is aging: the intrepid moonshine runners who transported illegal alcohol on curving mountain roads and invented the sport of NASCAR racing. Wilkes County was for years home to this illicit trade, and even now grandfathers entertain youngsters with tales of speedy chases.

This oral history project will compliment the Save Our History project that will result in a video history of Wilkes County available to all Wilkes County citizens through its placement in each of the public school media centers, the Wilkes County Public Library, the Wilkes Heritage Museum, the Wilkes Community College Library, the Northwest North Carolina Visitors’ Center, and the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce. 2006-2007 is the right time to begin the Preserve America: Save Our History project. Wilkes County citizens are proud of their community’s heritage and are enjoying visiting area attractions. A visitors’ center is due for construction along US highway 421 in 2008. A video production promoting Wilkes County’s historic, cultural, recreational, natural, and agricultural assets will continue this enthusiasm and has the potential to generate interest for years to come.

The Save Our Wilkes County History Committee is continuing to schedule and produce interviews of the citizens of Wilkes County, the agriculture crops, the native Americans, the African-Americans, and the Yadkin River corridor.

Goal:

To produce DVDs on Central Wilkes County, African-Americans, Native Americans, Yadkin River Corridor. Agriculture crops. To produce 100 oral histories.

Person/Organization Responsible:

Save Our Wilkes County History
Committee
Dr. Fay Byrd, Wilkes Community
College
R. G. Absher, US Army Corps. of
Engineers

Cost to Implement:

$20,000 initial
investment
$5,000 (to complete
project)

Estimated Time to Complete:

One year

Action Items:

Schedule interviews. Script. Film. Produce

Resources Required:

Finances and actual video production

Who’s Responsible:

Fay Byrd

Action Items:

  1. Identify, contact, and schedule interview candidates. Interviewed over 206 individuals.
  2. Contract a video producer to interview and film the oral histories. John Litschke filmed and Teresa Litschke completed the productions.
  3. Duplicate the videos for each participating agency. Wilkes Community College has duplicated in excess of
    400 tapes for the museum, public library, Cultural Arts, public schools, and the College.

Performance Measures:

Filmed copies to be produced and distributed to each participating entity. Completed with the exception of three productions:
Yadkin River Heritage Corridor, Central, and Native Americans.

Status:

The Committee has been responsible for over 200 interviews including some that were used for “North Carolina Now” such as Charlie Klein, a World War II pilot; veterans of wars, places, events, towns that no longer exist such as Grandin and Doughton. A masterpiece has been completed on the Agriculture in Wilkes County. All objectives have been completed except the final production for the Yadkin River Corridor to go in the Visitor’s Center in 2009, the Central part of Wilkes, and the Native
Americans. They will be completed in 2009.