Viewing entries tagged "audio"

Wilkes County’s Past Speaks In New Collection

In collaboration with our partners at Wilkes Community College, 50 new recordings, which make up hours of audio history, are now available online! These records, previously carefully maintained on reel-to-reel tape, can now be listened to anywhere, anytime. The recordings, which include several fascinating oral histories, stretch as far back as 1953 and extend to 1980.

Open box holding a reel to reel tape

Many of these recordings are oral histories, where a longtime local of Wilkes County recounts their lived experience in relation to the area. Interviewers, often in collaboration with Wilkes Community College, would visit the homes of longtime locals and candidly record their stories. Because of this candid nature, some recordings include the natural ambience of birdsong, rustling leaves, or chairs moving — all of which make the listener feel closer and more present to the speaker. These speakers (born as early as 1861!) speak on a variety of subjects relating to life in Wilkes County: topics include Camp Jo Harris, the life of an optometrist, and books read (and enjoyed) by former North Carolina Poet Laureate James Larkin Pearson. Many reflect on the lumber and furniture industry which rose to prominence in the area during the early twentieth century. The opinions and subjects are as varied as the memories and lives of the speakers, which paint a colorful picture of Wilkes County’s past.

If you’re interested in learning even more about the history of the area, you’re in luck! Included in this collection are a series of forums held during the 1970s, which focus on Wilkes County’s previous centuries of histories. Though you may not find much contemporary history in these recordings, its fascinating (and perhaps recursive) to hear historical discussions of history. Several of these forums were held at local high schools, and include discussions between local historians and high school students. The candid recordings often pick up teachers hushing side conversations between students; a nice reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Besides oral histories, some recordings contain previous radio broadcasts from local stations. These broadcasts often contain advertisements for local businesses, and are about news relevant to the Wilkes County area. A particular standout is a program broadcast by the Lincoln Heights choir, where schoolchildren urge voters to support a bond that would finance underrepresented schools. The program is scored by classical piano music and includes a concert by the school choir, and is just an overall beautiful listen.

You can listen to that broadcast here, or find more of Wilkes County’s history on NC Digital here. Find out more about our partners at Wilkes Community College at their website here.

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This blog is maintained by the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and features the latest news and highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of primary sources from organizations across North Carolina.

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