From old to new: Mullica Hill Branch Library gives county residents a chance to restore memories

Library branch gives patrons the technology to restore old music, movies and audio in its Digital Media Lab

Kevin Brown, senior library assistant at the Mullica Hill Branch Library, presents his personal portfolio of photos he’s restored over the years for family and friends in the library’s Maker Studio.

When Kevin Brown, senior library assistant at the Mullica Hill Branch Library, took his friend’s water-damaged photos from a house flood, he made a promise to restore them. 

On average, it took Brown about three to four hours to restore each photo. Using GIMP, a free and open-source graphics editor similar to the popular Adobe Photoshop, Brown was able to digitally salvage his friend’s photos in just a few weeks. 

“There’s nothing better for me than to show people that it could be done and to be able to give them back and see their reaction,” Brown said. “Just to see their appreciation and shock on their face that it looks brand new, that’s something that I don’t think you can put a price on.”

Brown is one of a few staff members at the Gloucester County library system who provides photo restoration classes in the library each week. Patrons from as far as Philadelphia have taken the class. Those who have photos that are discolored, scratched or faded are shown how to repair them digitally using GIMP, which can be downloaded on the patrons’ personal computers. 

The library only charges its patrons for the materials they use, such as a 50-cent DVD to store the digitized media. According to Brown, the hands-on experience saves the patrons a few extra dollars and comes with no risk of losing the media, a problem that could occur when sending them to a company to get it restored. 

“It’s one of the things that I think people are just kind of now learning about that the library provides. This is all free software that you can download and learn at home,” Brown said. 

The classes are held in the library’s Maker Studio, which is equipped with a MakerBot Replicator+ 3D printer and other up-to-date technology available for free for patrons. Next to the studio is its Digital Media Lab, a multi-purpose room that holds a small recording studio; an analog-to-digital memory station that allows patrons to transfer home movies, vinyl records and cassette tapes to digital technology. During one of the Vinyl Record Transfer classes, Brown saw a patron transfer their mother’s old piano recordings to a flash drive. 

The library was one of the first in Gloucester County to provide such resources. It’s one of the things its staff members take pride in, Brown said, as being one of the first library systems to take charge of the maker movement and being able provide up-to-date technology for its patrons. 

“I’m blessed and fortunate to work in this space,” Brown added. “I think preserving people’s memories is very important.”

To register for a workshop, visit www.gcls.org/calendar.