Pass Time with Our Passed Time During the Week of March 23, 2020
pas·time – /ˈpasˌtīm/ – noun
- 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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With so much time on our hands due to the quarantine, why not pass it with some Westborough local history?
With the closure of the Westborough Public Library due to the spread of the corona-virus, I will be sending out weekly suggestions for how you might want to engage your mind with local history activities. Here are a few resources to explore. Have fun!
–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian
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- “The Fight for Women’s Suffrage in Westborough: An Online Exhibit” – Read the new Westborough History Connections online exhibit that marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment and explores how the issue was debated in Westborough.
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- Westborough Town Meeting Records from 1717 to 1930 are now digitized and available online. The records offer a wealth of information about our town and include a hand-written copy of the Declaration of Independence that all MA town clerks were required to add to their town records.
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And if you really have a lot of time on your hands . . . how about something completely different?
- The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio – I know, it’s not local history, but it’s timely (and historical). The frame narrative around Boccaccio’s 14th-century collection of stories involves a group of ten, young nobles retreating to the country for ten days to avoid the Black Death. To pass the time, each member of the party is required to tell a story every day for a total of 100 stories.
As I read Boccaccio’s work, I can’t help but think about how it can be updated to the present. The cloistering of the youths brings to mind reality television shows such as Big Brother, and I wonder if my college daughters’ daily TikTok creations (click on the link if you have no idea what I am talking about) can be gathered together for similar effect once we come out the other end of our quarantine. So far, I am only one story into the narrative collection, but the satire is devastating and can perhaps be applied to some of our leaders in the midst of this crisis. Even though the introductory frame paints a grim picture of the plague’s effects, I find that it puts our situation today in comforting perspective while at the same time creating an eerie backdrop that forces us to face questions about our human condition as we read about the protagonists’ lighthearted approach toward escaping their horrific circumstance.
The version linked above is from the Internet Archive (which itself provides a platform for hours of fun exploration) and can be read directly online or downloaded in a variety of formats so that you can read it offline on a tablet or other reading device. (Scroll down and look to the right of the catalog information to see a list of available formats.) Other versions and translations of The Decameron are also available through the Internet Archive, but so far I have found this one to use language most similar to ours today.
Maybe after reading Boccaccio you will be inspired to take up the challenge yourself and write a story a day during this stretch of time. If so, send them my way (firstname.lastname@example.org) and maybe I will publish them in future editions of Westborough Local History Pastimes.