Newspaper Digitization Project

Just some of the clippings at the Mahwah MuseumWith the generous support of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, the Mahwah Museum is undertaking an ambitious project to work with the community to digitize our collection of newspaper clippings.

Why Newspapers?

For studying local history, newspapers are one of the best sources available. Day-by-day they tell stories of important events in people’s lives, tragedies and disasters,  politics and development, and the social and cultural life of Mahwah and the region surrounding it. An individual article can be interesting, but when you put together a large collection, it becomes something more. They help us to write the history of our towns.

We have a lot of newspapers in the Mahwah Museum’s archive, both complete collections of local papers and individual articles. Clippings present a challenge — do we organize them by date or do we organize them by subject? What happens when more than one subject is discussed? How do we find articles that mention specific people? Digitizing the clippings — scanning them and describing them in a database, enables us to search, sort, and index them in ways that will make them far more useful for research.

Many of the archival collections at the Museum have large collections of clippings. Some, like the ones gathered by Howard Avery, focus on the activities of Mahwah Boy Scout Troop 50 and the Mahwah Board of Education. Others, collected by town historians Janet Brown and John Bristow, feature the  early efforts of the Mahwah Historical Society, telling stories of the history of the township, the region, and the efforts to preserve them. Other collections may have a handful of clippings, obituaries, wedding announcements, or other events.

How Do You Digitize Them?

Scanning clippings on a flatbed scanner is the best method because it flattens the clipping and lights it evenly. But digital cameras, even those on cell phones and tablets, can get high quality images. Using a cell phone scanning app, like CamScanner, allows cropping and filtering that makes it easy to get a good image.

But scanning the clipping is only the first step. Just having a digital image doesn’t help us find or organize the content of the clipping. For that we’ll use a database program, entering some basic information about the clipping as well as adding subjects and indexing names and organizations.

The final step will be transcribing the clippings to make them text searchable. That’s a long term goals, but for now, we just want to get them under control.

How Does the Newspaper Project Work?

If you are interested, or just want to learn more about it, come to one of the information meetings. There we will do a presentation on the project, show you what we are building, and the kinds of materials that we have.

We will also hold workshops where we teach new members how to participate, and where we work on the clippings. You can participate any way you like.

  • Scanning or taking photographs of clippings
  • Typing the descriptions of the clippings into the database
  • Transcribing articles that others have scanned and described
  • Helping check the work done by others for typos and other errors.
  • Teaching and troubleshooting at workshops and presentations.

We would be happy to organize a special presentation/training for groups, whether scouts, clubs, classes, or other organizations. Just let us know!


Is this just for Mahwah history?

No! We are digitizing clippings from the Northwest Bergen County and Rockland County — including events in Ramsey, Suffern, Wyckoff, and other towns and boroughs. Many of the families who settled this area moved fluidly from town to town and we want to trace it all.

Do you have to be a Mahwah resident, or a member of the Museum?

No! We welcome any and all who are interested in participating.

Do you want scans of clippings I own?

Yes! If you have clippings that cover local history, we would love to include them with the ones the Museum holds. Every little bit helps!

Who do I contact to join / learn more/ schedule a presentation?

Contact Hannah Wolfe, the project director, at newspapers@archives.mahwahmuseum.org.