West

Millis library a finalist for historic documents grant

Home to numerous aging documents dating back to the 1700s, the Millis Public Library is in the running to win a grant to digitize the documents for future generations.

“When you’re in Boston or Concord, you think, of course, the Revolutionary War happened here,” said Alexander Lent, library director. “But it also happened in Millis.”

That is the kind of history Lent wants to protect from future damage by using funds from the Hopkinton-based EMC Heritage Trust Project.

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The project’s goal is to support the digitization of the world’s “information heritage,” according to its website. Past winners of the grant include the Vatican Apostolic Library.

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While the Millis Public Library is not as large or well-known as the Vatican, the grant is intended for any organization that holds the history of its local community.

The Millis Public Library’s proposal has made it to the final round of the competition. Three of the seven finalists will receive a grant of $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000. The winners will be announced later this month.

“Even if we don’t win, we did a lot to let people in town know about it,” Lent said. “It was nice to generate that kind of excitement for a local history collection.”

If the Millis Public Library wins the top award of $15,000, that money would fully fund its digitization project. The library would purchase an archival scanner that is designed to handle older and bound documents. The money would also fund a part-time employee to archive the materials.

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Another goal of the project is to connect with the community. The grant would pay for speakers to hold discussions about the collection, and allow the library to digitize any historical documents that town residents may have. Some people have already reached out to Lent about their personal collections, including some documents regarding George Washington.

The Millis library’s collection includes important documents, both new and old. Highlights include school yearbooks dating back to the 1950s and thousands of historical photographs.

“One of my favorites is a collection of ration cards from World War II,” Lent said. “That’s a very vivid reminder of what life was like back then.”

The digitized documents would be made available for free to people all around the world. Lent has already looked into partnerships with the Digital Public Library of America and Digital Commonwealth databases.

“It’s pretty incredible to hold some of these documents,” Lent said, “and that there’s that kind of history in this little town.”

Debora Almeida can be reached at debora.almeida@globe.com.