Westborough Local History Pastimes – September 18, 2020

Nuance, Complexity, and Ambiguity

History often teaches us to embrace ambiguity, to understand there aren’t simple answers to complex questions, and Americans tend to like simple answers to complex questions. So the challenge is to use history to help the public feel comfortable with nuance and complexity.

Lonnie Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, New York Times interview

As we have been moving out of the Industrial Age and into the Digital Age over the last few decades, both our educational system and our society has placed more and more emphasis on STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine). By their nature, these fields seek and require black and white answers to our questions, and as computers rule more aspects of our daily lives, the very underpinning of our culture keeps moving towards being governed by a binary system of ones and zeroes.

This STEM emphasis, however, has often come at the expense of “softer” fields like the humanities, arts, and social sciences, which often require zeroes, ones, and twos (if not threes, fours and fives).

As we have progressively transformed our life and culture into digital surrogates and have pursued mastery over nature and our environment through science, I ask: have we been losing our ability to ask complex questions, to hold several answers to the same question in our minds at the same time, to see the world through multiple lenses, and to compromise when situations require it?

One or two humanities classes in a liberal arts curriculum is not enough to develop the complex skills needed to perform these feats of mental and social dexterity, so the hope is that we continue to pursue them in our adult lives. It is difficult if not impossible to pursue these ends by ourselves, so our society has created cultural institutions, such as libraries and museums, to help us out.

As both a librarian and a cultural historian, part of my role, as Lonnie Bunch indicates above, is to help people become comfortable with nuance, complexity, and ambiguity. Below are some suggested activities to help you exercise some of your cultural muscles and think about the world in new and exciting ways.

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian

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View First Day of School Photos Submitted to the Westborough ArchiveThe WPL’s Kids’ Department and the Westborough Center has teamed up to collect First Day of School Photos during the start of this unusual school year, and many are available now in the Westborough Digital Repository. There is still time to submit your child’s photo and tell us about your experiences on this important day.

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I don’t need to tell you that the season of politics is upon us. Even though many colleges and universities have “Political Science” programs, politics in the end is more of an art than a science—the 2016 surprise election certainly taught us that! No politician is going to make all of your views about how our government should be run happen, as much as that person may try to convince you otherwise or use media outlets to try to bring you into a single line of thinking. The art of politics comes in when trying to decide which politician represents your interests more, but can still get elected through building a coalition of other people with views different from your own. Ask for and expect too much, and you may end up with nothing. In many ways, the current gridlock in the federal government comes from expectations and promises that we should be unsatisfied with not getting everything we want.

The time to make your artful decision is near. The Westborough Center is partnering with the Westborough Town Clerk to celebrate National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, Sept. 22 and to encourage all U.S. citizens to vote. Make sure you can enact your civic responsibility: Register to Vote (or Confirm Your Voter Registration). Registering takes only a few minutes to complete, so do it today!

Suggested reading:

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Phyllis Shafly demonstrating against the Equal Rights Amendment, February 4, 1977. (Library of Congress)

On Tuesday, the Westborough Center and the Westborough Historical Society co-sponsored a talk by Barbara Berenson on Women’s Rights after the 19th Amendment,” and you can view it now on Westborough TV. People who attended the talk agree that it was entertaining and informative—and as an added bonus, if you stay until the end you can see Kris Allen in her Woman’s Suffrage outfit ask a question!

Berenson is author of Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement. Her talk discusses how women fared politically and legally once they finally won access to the ballot and connects the passage of the 19th Amendment to the struggles to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which was first proposed in the 1920’s.

 

Westborough Local History Pastimes – September 1, 2020

“The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it . . . History is literally present in all that we do.” –James Baldwin

My last Westborough Local History Pastimes newsletter appeared back in May. Since that time, I have been busy over the summer writing and speaking about the controversy surrounding our Town Seal, thinking about ways to improve the Westborough Center and its mission, and planning for the library’s reopening. Alas, even though the library is open to the public now, our “Quick Browsing Hours” limit library activity to 20 minutes per person, so we decided to keep the Westborough Center closed since working with in-house, archival materials often requires longer periods of time. 

But just because the physical center is closed does not mean that local history activities are not taking place, so I have decided to revive this newsletter as we head into the fall. As usual, I will use it to continue to discuss important issues of history and culture, highlight local history resources and cultural activities, and encourage residents to use this knowledge to think about and discuss what we want Westborough to be in the future.

This fall will prove to be historically momentous. We have a consequential national election in November that will determine the direction of our country for years to come. We will be discussing the fate of our Town Seal at our fall Town Meeting, although wrapped up in this discussion will be the far more important question of what we think should define and embody the spirit of our town. And we will be holding our breaths as we continue to explore how much “normalcy” we can bring back to our lives in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic as we head into colder weather and more enclosed spaces. 

I have come to realize how crucial history and culture is to understanding and making smart decisions about these events, so I will be using future issues of this newsletter as a forum for learning more about how culture and the practice of history works, why the humanities are so important to our lives, and what the words of James Baldwin that open this newsletter really mean.

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian

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  • Register to Vote (or Confirm Your Voter Registration) – Voting is a civic responsibility, because democracy does not work without your participation. The Westborough Center is partnering with the Westborough Town Clerk to celebrate National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

If you are not registered to vote, or want to make sure that you are, click on the link above and follow the instructions. It will take only a few minutes to complete, but this short task will ensure that you have the ability to help determine the future direction of our society.

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  • Last month marked the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed the right of women to participate in elections. To commemorate this important event, the Westborough Center and the Westborough Historical Society are sponsoring a talk by Barbara Berenson on “Women’s Rights after the 19th Amendment.” The talk will take place on Tuesday, September 15, 7:00 p.m. as a Zoom Event so pre-registration is required so that we can send you a link to view the event the day before. 

Berenson is author of Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement and will discuss how women fared politically and legally once they finally won access to the ballot. She will begin with the controversies surrounding the Equal Rights Amendment when it was first proposed in the 1920’s and will review key successes and setbacks for women’s rights through the present.

And if you want to learn more about how the issue of allowing women the right to vote was debated in Westborough, visit the Westborough Center’s “The Fight for Women’s Suffrage in Westborough: An Online Exhibit.”

 

Westborough Local History Pastimes – June 24, 2020

Even though the Westborough Public Library is not yet open to the public, librarians are back in the building catching up on collection processing and preparing the building for when we can open our doors again.

As part of these efforts, I have been working on a “special enhancement” to the new exhibit space in the Westborough Center that is going to significantly improve our ability to share information about Westborough’s history and culture. (I am going to keep it a secret to create some suspense for our reopening and to use it as an incentive for you to stop by when we do). I have also been busy adding the first batch of photographs to the new Photographer-in-Residence Program Photographs collection in the Westborough Digital Repository.

And every summer, I evaluate the activities of the  Westborough Center and come up with ideas to try to improve what we are doing. I am in the process of carrying out such an evaluation now, and I am excited about some of my initial ideas to make the Westborough Center an even better place for exploration, creativity, and celebration of Westborough history and culture.

I can’t wait to see you in person once again and hope that you will stop in the Westborough Center to check it out once we reopen. And if you have any ideas for what you would like to do or see happen at the Westborough Center, send me an e-mail!

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian, avaver@cwmars.org

 

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  • Photographer-in-Residence Program Photographs – The photographs of the 2018-2019 Photographer-in-Residence, Brandin Tumeinski, are now available in the Digital Repository. Once the library opens up again, stop by the Westborough Center to see an enhanced exhibit of his work.

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Library Director Maureen Ambrosino (in case you couldn’t tell) with Holly.
  • Continue Submitting Your Face Mask Selfies – I know, you are are probably tired of me asking, but the contributions so far have been so great and say so much about who we are during these strange times that I can’t help it. Become a part of history and submit your photo! Future residents of Westborough will thank you. (Just click on the link and select “Face Mask Selfie” from the drop down menu to submit yours.)

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  • Bending Lines: Maps and Data from Distortion to Deception (online exhibit at the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library) – We tend to attribute notions of trust and authority to the maps we use, but they are just as prone to distortion as any other form of representation. I love the work of the Leventhal Map Center, and their latest online exhibit addresses the gap between physical reality and how maps and other forms of visual data represent that reality. Let’s hope we can see the physical version soon!

Westborough Local History Pastimes – For the Week of May 25, 2020

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye,
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

–Geoffrey Chaucer, opening lines of the Prologue
to The Canterbury Tales, 1387

Geoffrey Chaucer

I started the Pastimes newsletter back in March in response to the closing of our library during the coronavirus pandemic. In that first issue I featured Boccaccio’s The Decameron, which is a collection of 100 tales that are all framed by the story of a group of ten nobles who each agree to tell a story a day during the ten days while they are quarantined in the countryside avoiding the Black Death.

Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is often discussed along with Boccaccio’s work because its collection of stories are also joined together by a frame tale: a group of religious pilgrims find themselves traveling together to Canterbury, England and each one agrees to tell a total of four stories to entertain each other along the way. But what also unites these two works is the specter of the plague. Chaucer’s pilgrims are traveling to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral after praying for his help during the spread of the Black Death. So while The Decameron starts near the beginning of the plague, The Canterbury Tales begins at its end.

Unlike Chaucer’s pilgrims, we may have missed out on enjoying our April (and most of May), but now that we share with the travelers the emergence of spring and the beginning phases for ending our quarantine we should join them by getting outside and making some of our own “pilgrimages” around town (see the entries below for ideas)–and, if you were an English major in college and were required to memorize the opening lines to The Canterbury Tales as I was, recite some Chaucer along the way. 

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian

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  • Make a “Pilgrimage” to the Burial Site of Our Town’s First MinisterRev. Ebenezer Parkman is buried in Memorial Cemetery on West Main Street (between the Forbes Municipal Building and Westborough TV), and his gravesite is so elaborate in comparison to the others that you will easily find it. 

Once you also finish wandering among the gravestones of other Westborough residents who lived during Parkman’s time, walk down the street to the Congregational Church, and, if you are lucky enough to find it open, visit the Parkman Memorial Chapel. The chapel has the same dimensions as Westborough’s original meeting house, and in it you can see Parkman’s Bible and stand behind the pulpit from which he gave his sermons.

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Blue Jay from Birds of New England and Adjacent States, 1870
  • Celebrate Along with the Birds the Arrival of Springtime and Our New Limited Freedoms – Chaucer describes spring as a time when smale foweles maken melodye,” so let’s pay attention and enjoy their songs. The New York Times has a nice set of seven tips to help those of us who have never engaged in formal birdwatching to become more attuned to the lives of birds. I, for one, plan to use it while sitting out on my back deck as the weather continues to warm up.

 

 

Westborough Local History Pastimes – For the Week of May 18, 2020

Spring, Alfred Thompson Bircher, ca. 1861–1897

The weather this spring has generally been cold, windy, and dreary. And even though we have had a few warm and sunny spring days, I still find myself longing for an end to “winter,” both for my garden’s and our mental health’s sake. 

But even if the weather and the coronavirus continues to keep us indoors, we can still enjoy a virtual walk in our community through the work of the Westborough Public Library’s Photographers-in-Residence. The first Pastime entry below has links to their work, some of which was before and some during the pandemic shut-down. In both cases, the positive spirit of our community shines through! 

If you want to “get behind the camera” yourself, the other Pastime entries will give you some ideas and opportunities to do so. And even if you do not have any photographic skills, be sure to submit your Face Mask Selfie to the Westborough Archive! You can view ones that have been submitted so far to gather some inspiration.

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian

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Mill Pond, Brandin Tumeinski, 9/30/2018
  • Photographs of Our Community Before and During the Pandemic – View the latest work by the Westborough Public Library’s current Photographer-in-Residence (2019-2020), Adway Wadekar, at https://www.instagram.com/thewestborougharchive/. Many of his works currently posted show Westborough during more vibrant times and remind us of what we have to look forward to once the coronavirus threat finally ends.

Brandin Tumeinski, who was our Photographer-in-Residence from 2018-2019, continues to take photographs of our community. You can view his most recent work at https://brandintumeinski.instaproofs.com/gallery/#events/1731919/4013169. Once the library opens up again to the public, the Westborough Center will be offering an enhanced display of his “Westborough: Portraits of a Town” exhibit, and we will be looking forward to displaying Wadekar’s work in a follow-up exhibit once his current term ends. 

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  • Submit Your Photographs to Westborough Connects! – Westborough Connects is collecting photographs and brief stories meant to capture our experiences and reactions to the coronavirus pandemic during the month of May. Even better, their fourteen different contribution suggestions are activities that we can do to break up the monotony, bring some joy to our lives, and/or get us out of the house and into Westborough’s fresh air. 

The project is called “Together. Apart. Always. Stories of Connections and Resilience in Westborough,” and you can learn more about it by visiting the Westborough Connects website or by going to their special Facebook page for this project. Contributions will be collected into a book that the organization will sell as a fundraiser. So pull out your cameras or smartphones and contribute to this fun and reflective project. 

(By the way, the book will be added to the Westborough Archive, so your contribution will truly become a part of history!) 

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ca. 1977
  • Become Involved in Photographing Westborough – Are you interested in photography? Do you want to connect with other photographers and help the Westborough Center document life in our town so that future generations can gain a better understanding of who we are today? 

The Westborough Public Library will be revamping our Photographer-in-Residence program in the upcoming year. We do not yet know what this new program will look like (although we already have some ideas), but if you are interested in participating either with planning the new program or simply adding your name to a notification list for when it gets going, let me know by emailing me at avaver@cwmars.org

Westborough Local History Pastimes – For the Week of May 11, 2020

pas·time – /ˈpasˌtīm/ – noun

  1. an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work; a hobby. “his favorite pastimes were shooting and golf [and local history!]” (Source: Lexico – https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/pastime)

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In last week’s issue of Westborough Local History Pastimes, I discussed the importance of collecting images, stories, websites, and other formats that document how Westborough is responding to the current medical crisis and what that collection may mean to Westborough in the future. But we can also look back in time to see how Westborough handled medical issues in the past.

This issue highlights ways for you to explore how Westborough responded to pandemics, disease, and other physical ailments at various points in its history. 

[And be sure to add your Face Mask Selfie to the Westborough Coronavirus Pandemic Response collection! The ones that have been submitted so far are really fun and interesting.]

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian

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  • Rev. Ebenezer Parkman and Eighteenth-Century Medicine – If we cannot diagnose Rev. Ebenezer Parkman, Westborough’s first minister, as a hypochondriac* given the historical distance between his time and now, we can at least say that he was highly attuned to medical matters during his time. In the absence of modern medicine, who can blame him? Parkman actively chronicled both his own ailments and those of the people of Westborough in his diary, and he collected recipes that supposedly cured or provided relief to those afflicted with disease or illness.  

Here are a few places where you can explore and learn more about disease and medicine in eighteenth-century America through Parkman and his writings.

  • Read about how diseases as various as measles, sore throat, and rickets affected Westborough in the eighteenth century by visiting this page from the Westborough Public Library’s online edition of Parkman’s diary: http://diary.ebenezerparkman.org/diary-themes-topics/.
  • You can find some of the cures that Parkman collected–such as “The Blood of a Pigeon is a most Excellent Remedy in all Wounds & Contagions of the Eyes”–in New England’s Hidden Histories’s online collection of Parkman Papers. Click the “Close and View Content” button in the bottom right of the page after visiting each of these pages:
  • Read more about Parkman’s medicinal recipes in “A Most Excellent Remedy,” a Beacon Street Diary blog post from Congregational Library and Archive.

* According to Leo Damrosch in The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age (available as an ebook through the WPL with the Libby app), hypochondria in the eighteenth-century “didn’t mean wrongly imagining a physical illness; it meant suffering from a very real mental disorder, which was assumed to be linked to some bodily imbalance” relating to “blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile” (17).

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Westborough Chronotype, September 20, 1918
Westborough Chronotype, September 27, 1918
Westborough Chronotype, October 4, 1918
Westborough Chronotype, October 11, 1918

Westborough Local History Pastimes – For the Week of May 4, 2020

pas·time – /ˈpasˌtīm/ – noun

  1. an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work; a hobby. “his favorite pastimes were shooting and golf [and local history!]” (Source: Lexico – https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/pastime)

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Help Us Document Life During the Coronavirus Pandemic!

As we keep up our social distancing during the pandemic, I hear over and over again that “we are witnessing history.” Well, we are always witnessing history, but it is also true that some events have a greater impact on our lives than others. What we really mean to say is that we are witnessing a significant event that will perhaps impact us for years to come, and so people in the future will want to study and understand the ways that this event changed us.

In last week’s newsletter, I bemoaned the difficulty of finding articles on the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918 in the Westborough Chronicle (more on that next week!). But wouldn’t it be great if we had an archival collection that documented how Westborough responded to that crisis? Such an archive could teach us how the people of Westborough in the past coped with their fears, made difficult decisions in an attempt to curb infections, and adapted to having their normal routines interrupted in the face of a public health emergency. By coming to understand their struggle, we might find solace in the fact that our town has already gone through something similar to what we are going through now, that we bonded together as a community, and that we came out of the crisis together to live another day.

Your response to the current pandemic is historic! Below are some ways that you can help the Westborough Historical Society and the Westborough Center collect our impressions, our experiences, and our coping mechanisms for future Westborough residents. We are indeed witnessing history, and, as always, you are an important part of creating that history! Here is your chance to help us document this history and preserve it for generations to come.

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian

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Submit Your Written Reflections on the Coronavirus Pandemic! – The Westborough Historical Society and the Westborough Center for History and Culture are asking residents to write their reflections/impressions/reactions to living in this global pandemic. Here are some ideas for what to write about:

  • Discuss how the “world shutting down” has impacted you and altered your normal activities:
      • Sheltering in place
      • No sports
      • No school
      • No graduation
      • No Boston Marathon
      • No shopping
      • No restaurant dinners
    • Of interest also is daily life under these conditions: 
      • How do you spend your time at home all day? 
      • What is it like to visit the supermarket? 
      • How do you keep in contact with loved ones? 
      • How do you feel about wearing a mask or about maintaining social distancing?
    • Looking to the future:
      • What do you miss most? When do you anticipate being able to do that activity again?
      • When do you think everything will return to normal? Will it? If not, how will it be different?
      • Was there anything positive to come out of this quarantine experience? What were they? Do you anticipate these outcomes continuing into the future?

Kris Allen, Westborough’s eminent town historian, is offering to “put on her editor’s hat” and assemble our writings.

Deadline: June 1

Length: 500-750 words, or however long it takes to write what you want.

Submission: Send your reflections to Kris Allen (krisallen2@verizon.net) or submit them online by going to https://westboroughdigitalrepository.omeka.net/contribution and selecting the “Coronavirus Pandemic Written Reflection” option.

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Compulsory mask during the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918 (the design is meant as a joke).

Here Are Some Other Ways to Contribute – Writing may not be your thing, but here are some other ways to contribute content to the Westborough’s Coronavirus Pandemic Response collection:

  • Take a selfie of yourself wearing your mask. Be creative. Can you quickly add a note commenting on your mask or about what it is like to wear it? 
  • Contribute a photograph that shows how life has changed. Here are some ideas for what to photograph:
          • Empty grocery store shelves.
          • Empty Westborough streets.
          • Signs relating to the crisis.
          • People practicing social distancing.
          • Closed stores or restaurants.
  • Scan or photograph an item or object relating to the crisis.
  • Contribute a picture or cartoon.
  • Conduct an oral history with someone.
  • Take a short video showing how your life has changed.
  • Share your journal during this time (just make sure you want to make it public!).

Submit your contribution at https://westboroughdigitalrepository.omeka.net/contribution.

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Take a look at what is already included in the collection, and if you think we are missing a Westborough-related web or social media site that is taking action during this crisis, fill out this “Suggest a Web or Social Media Site” Form and we will consider adding it to the collection. 

Westborough Local History Pastimes – For the Week of April 27, 2020

pas·time – /ˈpasˌtīm/ – noun

  1. an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work; a hobby. “his favorite pastimes were shooting and golf [and local history!]” (Source: Lexico – https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/pastime)

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Despite the stereotypes (or because of them), librarians are sometimes characterized as superheroes. People come up to the reference desk or send us an email with what they assume is an impossible question to answer, and within minutes, we are miraculously able to find the answer. How do we do that? (Email me or stop by the Westborough Center for History and Culture the next time the library is open and I’ll be happy to try to explain.)

But sometimes–probably more often than we want to admit–we make mistakes. After all, we are human (and not actual superheroes). And recently, I made a mistake. Well, sort of. In a past issue of Westborough Local History Pastimes, I said that I had conducted a “thorough search” in the Westborough Chronicle for any reference to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 and could not find any. Well, since that time, I came across a search term that I had neglected to use before, went back to our local newspaper database to try it out, and was finally able to uncover an article about the pandemic. By all indications, this article should have come up using my original search terms, but for whatever reason, it did not. I must have made a mistake somewhere, or perhaps the quirks of the database eluded me.

Now it’s your turn. Read the first pastime entry below and try your hand at becoming a librarian superhero!

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian

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  • Westborough and the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 – The following article appeared in the Westborough Chronicle on October 11, 1918. To date, it is the only article I have been able to find on the topic in our local newspaper. Want to see if you can do better than I can? Explore our Westborough Historical Newspapers database, and let me know if you discover any more articles about this historical pandemic.

 

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As of this writing, the U.S. Census Bureau says that Massachusetts has a 54.9% response rate, compared to a national average of 53.2%. (Click here to find out the updated number.) Filling out the Census is important, because it determines the number of representatives that we get to send to Washington and the amount of federal funds that will flow to our state and town. If we are undercounted, then we will not receive our full benefits and lose influence in setting public policy.

Because we own the government by virtue of being citizens in our democratic society (and more literally because we pay taxes), we also own all of the records that are produced by our government. That means we have access to all kinds of data that comes out of the U.S. Census Bureau. Even more, you can find loads of fascinating historical data, and even see Famous and Infamous Census Forms for people like Thomas Jefferson, Groucho Marx, Malcolm X, Emily Dickinson, and John Dillinger. I could spend hours exploring all that the Census website has to offer!

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The exhibit chronicles how maps were used to shape ideas and attitudes towards our country’s westward expansion. Its addition of Native American viewpoints alone brings to relief how maps hold meanings that go beyond their seemingly neutral spatial representations. The content of the exhibit was so absorbing that I purchased the exhibition catalog to learn more. Fortunately, you can click on the link above to “visit” the exhibit and learn how important maps were to America’s nineteenth-century mindset.

Westborough Local History Pastimes – For the Week of April 20, 2020 – Special Patriot’s Day Edition

pas·time – /ˈpasˌtīm/ – noun

  1. an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work; a hobby. “his favorite pastimes were shooting and golf [and local history!]” (Source: Lexico – https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/pastime)

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After moving to Massachusetts from New Jersey in 1998, Patriot’s Day quickly became my favorite holiday. My enthusiasm for the day, though, had less to do with my ability to sleep in on that day and then meet up with another librarian friend at 11 a.m. during our day off to watch the Red Sox play–as great as that was. (Growing up as a Cubs fan in Chicago made adopting the Red Sox as my new “hometown” team rather easy given their shared futility on the field up until that point–it was an adoption that I was never able to stomach carrying out with the New York area teams despite living in that area for a number of years.)

No, my love of Patriot’s Day had more to do with the knowledge that we, collectively as people living in Massachusetts, had that day off while everyone else in the country had to go to work. When I bragged to family and friends back home how I was looking forward to my upcoming day off, they would quickly interrupt and say, “Patriot-what?” And then I could self-satisfyingly explain to them the “magic” of Patriot’s Day.

I have never woken up early to witness the annual Battle Green Reenactment at Lexington–I am not one to fight crowds, especially that early in the morning–and unfortunately, given the current crisis, no one else will be showing up this year to see it either. Nor will we be watching the Red Sox play. So why not mark the day from the comfort of your own home by exploring Westborough’s participation in the American Revolution through its historical documents, one of this week’s Local History Pastimes activities? And keep reading to discover other ways to “attend” Patriot’s Day activities.

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian

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Explore images available through the Digital Commonwealth of actual historical records held at the Westborough Public Library that document Westborough’s involvement in the American Revolution.

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  • Westborough Town Records, 1717-1781 – Want more? Continue your research of Westborough’s involvement in the American Revolution by reading our newly digitized town meeting records. Records for 1774–a crucial year leading up to the American Revolution–start on page 290

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  • Virtual Patriot’s Day 2020 – The Lexington Historical Society has put together ways for us to celebrate Patriot’s Day virtually. Through their website, you can view footage of last year’s Battle Green Reenactment, participate in some of their virtual events, and take awesome virtual tours of the houses they own (really, the tours are amazing, so check it out).

 

 

Westborough Local History Pastimes – For the Week of April 13, 2020

pas·time – /ˈpasˌtīm/ – noun

  1. an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work; a hobby. “his favorite pastimes were shooting and golf [and local history!]” (Source: Lexico – https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/pastime)

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I often compare the value of local history to the experience of drinking fine wine. 

Better wines offer a variety of taste sensations and a depth of flavor over the course of one sip that other wines may not possess. In the end, though, the enjoyment of fine wine really comes down to the mindset we bring to drinking it: are we paying attention to the way it smells in the glass, its texture, the changes of flavor as we sip it both on its own and as we eat food? No matter how fine the wine, if we guzzle it down like water we will certainly miss its subtleties. But if we slow down and apply a more mindful approach to the wine that we drink (or the food that we eat), we gain more enjoyment from the experience.

The same principle applies to local history. The more we strive to learn about the history of our town, the greater the enjoyment of where we live. The Arcade Building is simply one of many buildings that line the Westborough rotary–until we learn that it was the site of the town’s second meeting house, which was then sold and turned into a shopping arcade before being replaced by the present structure. And the Town Hall is just a place where we pay our taxes, renew our dog licenses, and attend Selectmen’s meetings–until we learn that it needed to be built once the second meeting house was no longer available and that the current structure is actually the second town hall to inhabit that spot.

Local history offers us a “depth of flavor” that enhances the appreciation of our daily surroundings by helping us see the layers of time that have gone into making our town what it is today. Now that the weather is warming, why not take advantage of the “Early Development of Westborough through Church and State: A Walking Tour” (one of the Westborough Local History Pastimes listed below) and add some new “flavors” to your enjoyment of Westborough?!

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian

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If you grew up in Westborough during the 1950’s, did you and your family move here during that time? If so, from where, and why did you move here? If your family lived in Westborough before 1950, what did your parents do for work? Why did your family decide to stay in Westborough?

If you live in Westborough today, did you grow up here? If so, why did you decide to stay (or move back)? If you moved to Westborough, where did you move from? Why did you choose to live in Westborough?

Click here and help us tell the story of Westborough?

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Just make sure that while you follow the tour on your phone that you maintain proper social distancing!

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  • Play some historical video games – The Internet Archive offers a wealth of public domain books, videos, audio files, and other free resources. It even has historical video games!

While your kids play games on their phones or on their Nintendo Switch, you can wax nostalgic by playing their early forebears, such as The Oregon Trail, Sim City, or Prince of Persia. The link above takes you to a list of games that can be played through your browser, but the “Software” navigation button at the top of the Internet Archive page can take you to other game forms (although some might require more advanced computer knowledge to operate).

As I try out some of these games I think about the truth of the old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”: it turns out that I’m still really bad at playing Pac-Man!