Preserve Your Old Films, Videos, and Photos!

Old media like this set of Birch family home movies are inaccessible in their current form.

Digitization is an amazing way of sharing historical resources, but did you know that it also serves as a means of preservation? Old photographs and newspapers deteriorate every year just from exposure to light, acids in the atmosphere, and handling. Audio-visual materials, like old 16mm film and videotapes are even more fragile and in some cases are unusable if you don’t have the proper playback equipment.

The Mahwah Museum is hosting an event on June 10, from 10am to 12 noon and invites you to bring you personal collection of photographs, 8mm and 16mm films, slides, videotapes and any other media that you may have. Consultants from Digital Memory Media will evaluate them and provide price quotes for digitizing them.  Details on the process can be found at

A screen shot from one of the Birch family films, ca. 1920.

For a sample of what Digital Memory Media can do, we had them digitize some 16mm films made by the Birch family around 1920. These films are in rough shape, they have a vinegary smell and we did not even know if the film could be played. We also asked them to digitize a 16mm film from a 1961 Mahwah-Ramsey high school football film which had been kept in tin cases. The results were impressive! The 90-year old Birch films show family vacations and tantalizing images of bygone days. The 56-year old football films show the high school marching band and extremely clear game footage. Imagine what they can do with your baby videos from the 1990s, or photographic slide collections from your childhood.  You can view the digitized films at

A screen shot from the 1961 Mahwah-Ramsey football game.

There are no reservations needed for this event and there is no commitment. If you do decide to have your family history materials digitized, Digital Memory Media will be taking orders at the event, and can take your films, photos and videos to their specialized facility in East Brunswick and deliver them back to  you by courier.


For more information about this event please click here.

Digital Memory Media will donate 20% of all orders made at the event to the Mahwah Museum.

John W. Bristow Papers Open for Research

After over a year of work, the Museum’s archive volunteers have completed processing the John W. Bristow Papers. Archivist Cathy Moran Hajo worked with a team of college students to organize, re-house, and describe one of the Museum’s largest and richest archival collections. A guide to his papers has been posted on the Museum website.

John W. Bristow (1924-2010) was a high school teacher with an abiding interest in history. He moved to Mahwah in 1973 and became involved with the work of the Mahwah Historical Society and the Mahwah Historic Sites Commission. He became Mahwah Town Historian in 1993 and is best-known for his newspaper column “This Month In Mahwah History” which ran in the Home and Store News from 1985-1992.

John W. Bristow, taken in 2008 (Courtesty of Ruth Bristow Portela).

The Bristow Papers was a large and unorganized collection when it arrived at the Museum. After separating materials like newspaper clippings, Mahwah Historical Society and Mahwah Historical Sites Commission records, and duplicates, the collection still spans 24 boxes! Among its highlights are John Bristow’s many presentations on local history, a rich collection of photographs and the photographic slides that accompanied his lectures, and ephemera he gathered while conducting research.

We could not have completed this major reorganization without the help of a dedicated team of students who volunteered on Saturday mornings.  We want to thank Kevin Cosenza, Jeffrey Fischer, Meg Hajo, Matthew Hazell, Lee Herman, Nicholas Incorvaia, Cristina Macari, and Jennifer Zgola for all their efforts to make this collection available to researchers. I would also like to thank Ruth Bristow Portela, John Bristow’s daughter, for sharing photographs and biographical information that we used to write up the guide to his papers.

To view the papers, please arrange an appointment by either calling the Museum or e-mailing the archives directly at