By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – A digitized version of “On the Beaten Path,” a history of Westborough written by historian and town activist Kristina Nilson Allen, is now freely available on the Internet Archive.
Anthony Vaver, Westborough’s library historian, said that Allen reached out to him with the idea of digitization because the book, which is often used by Westborough students for history assignments, has gone out of print and become both rare and expensive.
“Now that it is digitally available, it makes it even more significant because now it continues that legacy of making that more authoritative documentation more widely available,” Vaver said.
Program makes historic book accessible to modern readers
The digitization was completed through a partnership between the Boston Public Library, the Internet Archive and the Digital Commonwealth, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation of Massachusetts cultural heritage materials.
The book was scanned at a digitization lab at the Boston Public Library through an overhead scanner that can focus on both sides of a book at once. During digitization, a book sits in a cradle, surrounded by a black cubby to prevent any additional light from interfering.
A similar process was already undertaken recently when the Marlborough Public Library sent a number of archived high school yearbooks to Boston for digitization.
That collection dates back to 1927 and was celebrated as a way to make historical materials accessible outside of the brick and mortar walls of a library.
Book originally written by passionate historian
Allen said that she became interested in Westborough history when wandering through the town’s pilgrim cemetery. She was fascinated by the designs of the gravestones.
“One of the first things I did here was join the Historical Society, and I began to write historical articles,” Allen said.
The Westborough Historical Society and Westborough Civic Club then commissioned Allen to write a town history in 1983. Allen said that she had already been doing much of the research for years before the commission, due to her interest in town history and the articles she wrote about it.
For further research, though, Allen interviewed important figures from the town, including John Nourse of Nourse Farm, farmers who remembered the town in the early twentieth century, and archaeological professors who could provide insight on the town’s very early history.
Allen’s book covers the history of Westborough from the Precambrian age hundreds of millions of years ago, when a glacier created the town’s hills, up to 1984, when the book was published.
Allen described the location of Westborough as a major theme of the book and said that the location had been significant for thousands of years.
“Westborough is at the headwaters of the Assabet and Sudbury Rivers, and the Concord River runs into it,” Allen said. “So Native Americans in dugout canoes came to Westborough to find quartzite.”
Book available for free through Internet Archive
Allen said that, since the book’s publication, the town has further changed, as industrial growth has brought in people from all over the world, making the town more culturally diverse.
She applauded the work done by Westborough Connects, a non-profit organization that seeks to support that diversity.
In order to have the book available for free on Internet Archive, Allen waived her copyright to On the Beaten Path.
“As a gift to the town, I did not want to profit from what I think should be knowledge open to everyone in town or anywhere about this history,” Allen said.