With football and the Olympic Games dominating the news this summer, the Library and Museum’s latest exhibition at Great Queen Street celebrates freemasons’ sporting achievements.
Many freemasons have been active amateur or professional sportsmen, or have been involved with the administration of all types of sport. Did you know that the only man to win an Olympic Gold Medal and be awarded the Victoria Cross was also a freemason? The exhibition will be your chance to see Sir Alf Ramsey’s Masonic apron, along side medals from several Olympic Games.
The exhibition runs from 2nd July until the end of the year, and further details are available on the Library and Museum's website.
Dr Ric Berman will talk about his new publication "The Foundations of Modern Freemasonry" (Sussex Academic Press 2012) on Wednesday 20 June at The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AZ.
Using largely unexplored original sources, many of which have recently become available in digital form, Dr Berman highlights how freemasonry expanded from its London hub using a range of networks and associations.
Some, such as the Royal Society, are familiar to Masonic researchers; others including the London and provincial scientific lecture circuit and the London magistracy, are investigated for the first time.
Dr Berman will also consider what implications this research has for the development of freemasonry after 1750, which is his current area of research.
The Library & Museum of Freemasonry is putting on a free study day on Wednesday 2 May entitled Lodge, Livelihood and Locality at Glenmore House in Surbiton, Surrey
The study day will bring together researchers in the masonic and non-masonic communities to look at historical sources in Freemasonry and the locality. The day will also introduce sources to enable masonic researchers to put their work in the context of locality and hopefully persuade non-masonic researchers to include Freemasonry and fraternalism in studies of their local area.
Expert speakers will be present and there will also be a hands-on session to help people use and understand original sources. Examples will be drawn from Surrey and nearby areas.
A new exhibition looks at how changes in society and its attitudes have affected the ways in which Freemasons have felt able to be part of the wider public life of the country
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is exploring the history of public masonic activities. There are few towns in England and Wales without a masonic hall and civic foundation-stone layings and processions frequently had a masonic component, with buildings as diverse as the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and Truro Cathedral enjoying masonic ceremonies at their beginnings. More recently, hundreds of Freemasons in regalia inaugurated the rebuilt Masonic Hall at Beamish Open Air Museum and Freemasons regularly feature in the Lord Mayor’s Show in the City of London.
Another example of the active role masons played in public life can be found in the building of the first bridge across the Wear river in Sunderland, which was an important factor in the area’s economic development. The foundation stone was laid by local Freemason and MP, Rowland Burdon, in 1793 and the stone itself records that the event was attended by Freemasons, magistrates and ‘principal gentlemen of the County of Durham’. Although the bridge only took 10 days to put up, the formal opening did not take place until three years later in a masonic ceremony attended by the Duke of Gloucester.
The collections in the Library and Museum at 60 Great Queen Street have been accumulated over nearly two hundred years since the 1830s. New items are always being added, including centenary jewels, founders or Past Master’s jewels and newly published books.
Although tens of thousands of objects are already held, just occasionally a new type of object finds its way into the collection. Earlier this summer, the Library and Museum acquired its first masonic gun. Made around 1800, the pocket-sized flintlock pistol with a walnut grip is engraved with masonic symbols including a plumb rule, level, globe, Volume of Sacred Law and a sunburst. It also has two names on it – Sikes and Melford – which may relate to the maker or it could refer to the retailer and a place. Research to confirm these details is continuing.
Flintlock pistols were used as self-defence weapons and as a military arm. Although a pistol may seem at odds with the masonic idea of brotherly love, Freemasons of the time decorated a wide range of personal items including watches and snuff boxes to show pride in their membership. The decorated pistol, now on display in the Library and Museum, is a further example of such customisation.
Why did you join the Library and Museum of Freemasonry?
I answered the advert in Museums Journal, which is how qualified curators find their jobs. It was visiting the museum before I applied that made me want the post – as someone with a prior interest and specialism in uniforms and regalia, these fantastic collections were something I really wanted to explore. As a non-mason it has been a fascinating journey into the heart of Freemasonry and towards realising what it means to its members and the outside world. I previously worked as curator for HM Customs and Excise so dealing with an organisation that people are prone to misunderstand or have strong views about came naturally.
How have the collections changed since you started working here?
We’ve been looking for the more commonplace. If it’s rare and it’s precious, we’ve probably got six, but if it’s average, we probably haven’t got one because it wouldn’t have occurred to a mason to give it to the Grand Lodge. When we got here, there wasn’t a case showing basic Craft regalia because the assumption was that everyone knows what it looks like – but the public don’t. That process of openness continues today. When I got here, we wouldn’t have had a case on women’s Freemasonry, yet a few years ago we had an entire exhibition on a female grand lodge centenary.
Have the visitors changed over the years?
Things are shifting. We get a younger and more diverse audience who are genuinely curious and don’t have preconceptions. It’s all about making people think about their views on Freemasonry. With all the regalia and ritual, they might find what Freemasons do mysterious, but go back sixty years before the welfare state and every working man, as well as many women, were in friendly societies – it was the only way you got sick pay or death benefits. All these societies had regalia and ritual, so did the trade unions. The profile of the Freemasons and of this Grand Lodge in particular is the last visible bit of what used to be completely understood before the Second World War.
What is the Library and Museum trying to achieve?
The museum was originally designed for Freemasons to advance in their knowledge. The museum therefore presumed visitors knew what was going on. However, in recent years we and our predecessors have been working through the material culture of Freemasonry, using it to build up a picture of masonic life on an exhibition-by-exhibition basis. We’ve done things on masonic dining and sociability; the relationship between Freemasonry and religion; women in Freemasonry; and additional degrees – some Freemasons don’t realise there are twenty additional masonic orders that you can join so there’s the spotters’ guide up on the wall. We don’t have an agenda but we do want people to realise the depth, richness and complexity of the subject matter. We’ve also designed it so that if you are a Freemason, you can use the displays to talk to family members or potential candidates. This is the museum of the Grand Lodge and we should never forget that it is primarily for the members.
How do you decide what to put on display?
For the exhibitions, we look for facets that people wouldn’t know about. I wouldn’t show anything that spoiled the surprise of any of the rituals – for example, an object that is used. However, we are looking to be comprehensive in terms of lodges that come under the United Grand Lodge of England. We want something from every single lodge in the constitution, be it ephemera, lodge history or a jewel.
We have a display of Henry Muggeridge, who was a very famous Victorian mason, and we have the jewel worn by his proposer, his handwritten notes when he was in his eighties and everything in between. We collect people not things. They have a financial value but they’re also irreplaceable historically. We have a gavel made from a rifle captured in battle (pictured above right) and used in masonic meetings in the combat zone, and jewels made in a lodge held in a Japanese internment camp in the Second World War. How do you put a price on those? If the building’s burning down, none of us will head for the gold and silver, we’ll all go for the one-off pieces that tell a story.
How much restoration work do you carry out?
We don’t take things in poor condition unless they’re absolutely vital for the story – we’re not miracle workers. We are working through our collections and looking at things that need conservation, like books and fabrics, but we’re here to archive, we’re a service industry. We do publish academic papers, but primarily we are here to make people aware of the collections, wake people up to the fact that it’s here and hope they ask us questions so that we can start digging around. It’s the same in the lodges – if it weren’t for the fact that lodge archivists have been keeping records and writing histories for the past two hundred and fifty years, so much would have been lost. The things in our museum now are a unique resource.
Where else could I find Freemasonry artefacts?
Apart from the provincial masonic museums, the display of Freemasonry in the UK is next to nil – I think museums are afraid of it and that they might get it wrong. What keeps me here is that, as a curator, I’m doing something that no one else is. It can get a bit lonely but it’s fascinating. We want to point out that the world is moving, that people do have an interest in fraternity in the broadest sense, as well as in Freemasonry, and that maybe the time is coming for it to be displayed in other collections. Museums out there are missing a trick.
Do you show how Freemasonry is interpreted throughout the world?
The main thing is to pick out a core message of the Grand Lodge, like brotherly love, and then find out more about the stories that relate to that core. However, under the surface of what we do there is historical tension when looking at global Freemasonry in all its diversity, against how it was originally created in the UK. While it’s a very adaptable organisation in the UK, especially if you look at how its changed in the last few years, it has still kept its core beliefs of no politics or religion. When this changes around the world, is it still Freemasonry? The public have no idea about regularity or recognition, for them if someone calls themselves a Freemason, that’s what they are. But it’s not that simple, it’s a sensitivity that we’re working on and is an interesting line to walk.
What do you like about your job?
I came here for three years and I’ve been here for twelve. I said I’d leave when I get bored and that hasn’t happened yet. The joy of this collection is that it makes people really think and, as curator, it’s at the root of what I do: to wake people up and make them consider why it is that they hold certain ideas and beliefs.
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry salutes the Craft's tallest building, in an exhibition that explores the role of this fraternal organisation in America's history
The Masonic Temple in Chicago was, for a brief period in the 1890s, the tallest building in the world. Built in 1892 and designed by the famous architects Burnham and Root, it was 302ft (92m) high and stood at the corner of Randolph and State streets. The masonic rooms were at the top of the 22-storey building, with a central court surrounded by nine floors of shops and offices. Although Chicago’s building regulations did not allow taller structures until the 1920s, the Masonic Temple was overtaken by the Manhattan Life Insurance Building in New York, at 348ft (106m) in 1894.
A SENSE OF BELONGING
It was the tremendous growth in the number of Freemasons in America between the end of the Civil War in the 1860s and World War I in 1914 that prompted the building of the Chicago skyscraper and other large masonic halls across the country. As the population grew and more immigrants arrived to seek their fortune in what was becoming the world’s largest economy, Freemasonry provided a source of charitable support and a place in society for its members.
Sadly, all that now remains of the Chicago Temple are the souvenirs. The lifts proved to be inadequate for the number of people who could potentially use the building and it became less popular with commercial tenants. The construction of the State Street subway in the 1930s would have required extensive work on the building’s foundations, which could not be justified, and so it was demolished in 1939.
The Chicago Temple was commemorated with postcards and souvenirs, which can be seen in the Library and Museum’s latest exhibition, the Patriot Mason: Freemasonry in American Society – from 4 July until the end of 2011. It explores Freemasonry in American society from its origins in the early 1700s to now, using many rarely seen objects, books and documents from the Library and Museum’s own collections, as well as material on loan from masonic collections in the United States.
QUARTERLY COMMUNICATION OF GRAND LODGE
14 SEPTEMBER 2011
REPORT OF THE BOARD OF GENERAL PURPOSES
Board of General Purposes
The Board of General Purposes will meet in 2012 on 14 February, 20 March, 15 May, 17 July, 18 September and 13 November.
Attendance at lodges under the English Constitution by Brethren from other Grand Lodges
The Board draws attention to Rule 125 (b), Book of Constitutions, and the list of Grand Lodges recognised by the UGLE, published in the Masonic Year Book, copies of which are sent to lodge secretaries.
Only Brethren who are members of lodges under recognised jurisdictions may visit English lodges. They must produce a certificate (i.e. a Grand Lodge certificate or other documentary proof of masonic identity provided by their Grand Lodge), should be prepared to acknowledge that a personal belief in TGAOTU is an essential Landmark in Freemasonry, and should be able to produce evidence of their good standing in their lodges. It is the Master’s responsibility to ensure that the requirements of Rule 125 (b) are met.
It is particularly noted that the hazard of admitting a member of an unrecognised constitution arises not only in connection with overseas visitors (or individuals resident in this country who belong to an unrecognised constitution overseas). There are Lodges of unrecognised constitutions meeting in England, and care must be taken that their members are not admitted to our meetings.
Attendance at Lodges Overseas
The continuing growth in overseas travel brings with it an increase in visits by our Brethren to lodges of other jurisdictions, and the Board welcomes this trend. From time to time, however, Brethren become involved with masonic bodies which Grand Lodge does not recognise, e.g. in visiting a jurisdiction which, quite legitimately so far as it is concerned, accepts as visitors Brethren from Grand Lodges which are not recognised by the UGLE.
In this connection, Brethren are reminded that it is part of their duty as members of the English Constitution not to associate masonically with members of unrecognised constitutions, and should such a situation occur, they should tactfully withdraw, even though their visit may have been formally arranged.
To avoid this danger, and potential embarrassment to hosts, Brethren should not attempt to make any masonic contact overseas without having first checked (preferably in writing) with the Grand Secretary’s Office at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AZ, that there is recognised Freemasonry in the country concerned and, if so, whether there is any particular point which should be watched.
The Board recommends that the terms of this warning should be repeated verbally in open lodge whenever a Grand Lodge Certificate is presented, and in print once a year in a lodge’s summons.
Brethren should also be aware of the masonic convention that communications between Grand Lodges be conducted by Grand Secretaries. They should therefore not attempt without permission to make direct contact with the Grand Secretary of another Constitution. This does not preclude direct contact on a purely personal level between individual Brethren under different Grand Lodges.
Grande Loge Nationale Française
At the June Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge the President made a statement relating to the turbulence existing in the Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF) and indicated that the Board would continue to monitor the situation closely.
The Board regrets that the situation within the GLNF has deteriorated. Notwithstanding the letter its current Grand Master wrote to our Pro Grand Master, he failed to relinquish his mandate on 27 June. This has done nothing to ease the discord.
Some 600 lodges or more have dissociated themselves from the Grand Lodge or have indicated that they will be doing so. This means that their members, unless they have dual membership with lodges that remain under the GLNF or a lodge in another jurisdiction with whom this Grand Lodge is in amity, would cease to be able to visit our lodges. It would be an impossible task for our lodges to know which French masons could visit us and which could not.
Harmony within lodges and with fellow masons has always been one of the customs and usages of Freemasonry. This is a fundamental principle urged upon candidates at their initiation. Indeed, it is so fundamental that it has never been considered necessary to enshrine it as a Rule in the Book of Constitutions, though the Antient Charges which are published as a part of the Book of Constitutions urge the cultivation of brotherly love, ‘avoiding all wrangling and quarrelling, all slander and backbiting’.
The Board considers that the GLNF may be in breach of paragraph 8 of the Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition –‘That the principles of the Antient Landmarks, customs, and usages of the Craft shall be strictly observed’ – which are also included with the Book of Constitutions.
The evidence of substantial disharmony within the GLNF is overwhelming. However, the Board is reluctant at present to recommend withdrawal of recognition from a Grand Lodge with which the UGLE has been in amity for nearly 100 years. It therefore recommends that with immediate effect relations with the GLNF be suspended, that is to say that:
1. Our Brethren should no longer be permitted to join or to visit Lodges under the GLNF; and
2. Our lodges should no longer be permitted to elect as a joining member or admit as a visitor any Brother who is a subscribing member of a lodge under the GLNF, unless he is also a subscribing member of a lodge under UGLE or under a Grand Lodge, other than the GLNF, recognised by UGLE.
This suspension would not force any of our Brethren who are currently also members of lodges under the GLNF to resign from any such lodges, nor would it prevent such Brethren from continuing to exercise, as members of lodges under the GLNF, such rights, including those of visiting, as they enjoy under the GLNF.
A Resolution to give effect was approved.
The Board hopes that it will not be too long before harmony is restored within the GLNF so that we may resume normal relations with our Brethren in France.
Sir James Martin Lodge No. 4255 has resolved to surrender its Warrant in order to amalgamate with Semper Vigilans Lodge No. 3040 (London).
A resolution that the lodge be removed from the register in order to effect the amalgamation was approved.
Erasure of Lodges
The Board had received a report that 23 lodges had closed and have surrendered their Warrants. The lodges are: Athenaeum Lodge No. 1491 (London), Lombardian Lodge No. 2348 (London); King George V Lodge No. 3529 (East Lancashire), Providence Lodge No. 3697 (London), Doric Lodge No. 4073 (Yorkshire, West Riding), St Helen’s Lodge of Integrity No. 4151 (West Lancashire), Portman Lodge No. 4747 (London), Pandora Lodge, No. 4966 (London), Winckley Lodge No. 5438 (West Lancashire), Woodland Lodge No. 5478 (East Lancashire), Estreham Lodge No. 5494 (London), Eureka Lodge No. 5505 (East Lancashire), Temple of Friendship Lodge No. 5886 (Surrey), Magnum Bonum Lodge No. 6613 (London), Fellowship and Peace Lodge No. 7002 (London), Hackney Brook Lodge No. 7397 (London), New Era Lodge No. 7400 (Hertfordshire), Teddington St Mary’s Lodge No. 7469 (Middlesex), Brookmans Park Lodge No. 7655 (Hertfordshire), Summa Petens Lodge No. 7682 (London), Tavistock Lodge No. 8376 (Surrey), Bi-Centenary Lodge of Nottinghamshire No. 9070 (Nottinghamshire) and Star and Phoenix Lodge No. 9286 (London).
The Board recommendation that they be erased was approved.
In 1993 a Warrant was granted for Lodge of Shankar No. 9526 (Bombay) and in 1996 a Warrant was granted for Universal Lodge No. 9644 (Guyana). Both Warrants were issued, but neither lodge has been, or is now likely to be, consecrated.
The Board recommendation that the lodges be formally erased was approved.
Masonic Communications in an Electronic Age
The Grand Secretary gave a talk to Grand Lodge on the above subject.
List of Approved New Lodges
28 April 2011: No. 9866 Abuja Lodge, Abuja, Nigeria and No. 9867 The Leeds Lodge, Leeds Yorkshire, West Riding.
Expulsions from the Craft
Twelve members have been expelled from the Craft.
Quarterly Communication meetings
The Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge will meet on 14 December 2011, 14 March 2012, 25 April 2012 (Annual Investiture), 13 June 2012, 12 September 2012 and 12 December 2012.
Supreme Grand Chapter meetings
The Supreme Grand Chapter will meet on 9 November 2011, 26 April 2012 and 14 November 2012.
Report of the Council of the Library and Museum Charitable Trust for the year ended 31 January 2011
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons’ Hall in London is open to the public, free of charge, Monday to Friday 10 am–5 pm. The book, object and archive collections are available for the enjoyment of visitors of all ages by way of the permanent displays and increasing online resources which are also available for those who cannot visit in person. Temporary exhibitions highlight aspects of the collections.
During 2010 the Library and Museum organised two exhibitions: Freemasons and the Royal Society and The Masonic Emporium. Both exhibitions drew extensively on the Library and Museum’s own collections.
The Royal Society exhibition marked the 350th anniversary of its founding. Work related to the exhibition resulted in the online publication of a searchable biographical listing of nearly 400 Freemasons who were also Fellows of the Society. Loans to the exhibition were made by Alma Mater Lodge, No. 1492, in Cambridge. The Royal Society provided images from their collections.
In The Masonic Emporium the Library and Museum explored the growth of a commercial market for masonic items and the businesses which developed to supply it in the 19th century. The exhibition was supported by Toye, Kenning and Spencer, who kindly lent photographs and documents from their archives and specimen items from the manufacturing process. A number of objects were lent from private collections. A free illustrated exhibition guide was published for this exhibition.
A record number of more than 30,000 visited the Library and Museum during the year (2009–2010: 25,622) of whom approximately 60% were not Freemasons. For many visitors the highlight was the tour of the ceremonial areas provided by Library and Museum staff. The Library and Museum and the ceremonial rooms of Freemasons’ Hall were opened on Saturday, 18 September 2010 for London Open House. More than 2,500 visitors were received that day.
Provision of research resources
Increasing use is being made of the Library and Museum as a research resource with over 170 new readers registered during the year (2010: 200). The issue of books and documents has continued to increase steadily. Many enquiries are dealt with by mail or increasingly electronically.
A new version of the Library and Museum website was launched in November 2010 designed with easier navigation and with more images to convey the variety of the collections. This provided the opportunity to reissue the series of downloadable Information Sheets on a range of frequently requested topics. Also included on the site is guidance for lodges and chapters about the care of their records.
Good progress continued to be made with over 650 museum items catalogued (2010: 509). This included the collection of 18th century plated and pierced metal Masonic jewels. In addition, 2,755 books (2010: 4,810) and 1,835 detailed archive records (2010: 1,385) were added to the catalogue. Work has continued on cataloguing the print and photograph collection and over 1,500 images are now available.
Following the Historical Records Survey which was undertaken in 2008–2010, the Library and Museum co-ordinated a grant scheme to support conservation work on lodge and chapter records. The scheme attracted 35 applications from lodges and chapters in 18 Provinces and 12 grants were made. It is intended to administer a similar grants scheme in 2011. Library and Museum staff also gave several presentations at Provincial offices on conservation.
Donations of regalia, books and artefacts have continued to enable the Library and Museum to expand its collections and the Council is grateful for the generosity of all donors.
Raising awareness of the Collections
Members of staff spoke at lodges around the country and at meetings of family history societies and local and specialist history groups. The Curator, Mark Dennis, presented a paper on masonic regalia at the International Costume Conference in Athens in April.
Director Diane Clements and Archivist and Records Manager Susan Snell, presented papers at the Women and Freemasonry conference organised by the University of Bordeaux in May and these will be published in 2011-2012.
Susan Snell also spoke to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain and gave a paper to the British Records Association conference in December on Masonic charity.
In November 2010 a joint event, Freemasonry and Ancient Egypt, was run with the Petrie Museum at University College, London. Due to the success of this event it was repeated early in 2011.
Plans for future periods
One of the most important resources used by the Library and Museum are the membership registers maintained by UGLE for the century or so after the 1880s. These exist as unique volumes. During 2011 the Library and Museum is undertaking a project to microfilm these volumes to assist with their future preservation.
For 2011 the temporary exhibition programme will include Building Solomon’s Temple and The Patriot Freemason: Freemasonry in American Society. Work continues on documentation, cataloguing and re-storage.
As at 31 January 2011 the consolidated net assets of the Library and Museum Charitable Trust were £2,719,700 (2010: £2,634,699).
The activities of the Library and Museum are funded by donations, fees charged for genealogical research and booking fees for Saturday tours. The Friends of the Library and Museum established in 2001 enables individuals (whether Freemasons or not), lodges and chapters to support the Library and Museum by way of an annual subscription.
Friends receive regular Newsletters and can attend special events. The Friends scheme is open to all those interested in developing their understanding of the varied collections of the Library and Museum and who wish to contribute to their development and care.
The Library and Museum’s trading subsidiary, Letchworth’s (Freemasons’ Hall, London) Limited made a Gift Aid contribution to the Library and Museum of £92,202 (2010: £75,740).
This Report comprises extracts from the Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 January 2011. For a copy of the full Annual Report and Accounts please write to the Director.
In 2010 the Library and Museum at Freemasons' Hall welcomed more than 30,000 visitors. For many visitors the highlight is the tour of the ceremonial rooms which is provided by Library and Museum staff. Freemasonry Today spent time with the team of tour guides to find out more
One of the longest serving guides is Mike Coleman. ‘The tour starts in the Museum with a brief history of the two eighteenth century Grand Lodges and the story of the Union. The route then goes through the Grand Officers’ Robing Room with its portraits of Royal Grand Masters, continues down the processional corridor, visits the Shrine and finishes in the Grand Temple. There we take the opportunity to answer visitors’ questions about the building and more generally about Freemasonry. We usually finish by reminding visitors to visit the shop.’
The tour takes about forty-five minutes. Guide Stephen Hoole likes to take time to point out items of interest in the Museum to his group at the end of the tour.
Trevor Lowman has recently joined the team of guides. One of the challenges he faced was learning all the information as there is a tradition that the guides do not use notes. ‘I hadn’t realised,’ he says, ‘just how much there was to know.’
Another new recruit, John Green, has enjoyed meeting visitors from all over the world. ‘I have met people from Israel, Canada, Brazil and Belgium – and that was just in my first week!’
Both of them have learnt a lot from the other guides, as Trevor admits, ‘I have also borrowed some of guide John Weightman’s jokes!’
DO THE TOUR
Colin Gurnett, another guide, would like to see even more visitors from London lodges. ‘Many members come to the building for their meetings and just see where they are meeting. It would be great if they could take time to do the tour and learn more about one of London’s great buildings.’
The weekday tours are free of charge and take place at 11 am, 12 noon, 2 pm, 3 pm and 4 pm. There is no need to book for individuals or small groups but, as events can be arranged at short notice which can mean that tours are curtailed, anyone making a special journey is advised to telephone to check the availability of tours.
On Saturdays there is just one tour, starting at 10.30 am which has to be pre-booked. According to Melrose Eccleston, who looks after bookings, ‘the Saturday tours are very popular and get booked up quickly – please don’t leave your arrangements to the last minute as we can only handle limited numbers on Saturdays.’
Freemasons’ Hall is increasingly being used for events and filming. Sometimes tour groups get to experience what goes on behind the scenes on a film set. Guide Michael Rhodes remembers one tour he led which had among its number ex-James Bond Pierce Brosnan taking a break from a photography assignment in the building. ‘He was a charming man and was wearing one of the most stylish suits I have ever seen!’
The Library and Museum can’t promise James Bond on every tour but you will be assured of a friendly welcome and a fascinating experience.
8 September 2010
A speech by Mrs Diane Clements, Director, The Library & Museum of Freemasonry
I am pleased to report that in the four years since I last spoke in this forum, the Library and Museum has continued to make good progress in meeting our objective of making the library, museum and archive collections here at Freemasons’ Hall available to as many people and to the widest possible range of audiences as we can, to try to improve the understanding of freemasonry and its role, past and present, in society.
The most obvious way that we do that is for the Library and Museum to be open free of charge every weekday. People join the regular guided tours of the ceremonial areas of the building. They are also attracted by our range of temporary exhibitions. Over the last four years the subjects of these exhibitions have included Freemasonry and the French Revolution, London Grand Rank and Masonic Charity. As someone who regularly has to respond to visitors’ comments such as “I didn’t know they allowed women in”, which is probably not something that any of you encounter, I was particularly pleased by our exhibition on Women and Freemasonry in 2008- even if it didn’t necessarily explain why I am here!. Our current exhibition The Masonic Emporium looks at the development of the commercial market for Masonic regalia and furniture. Visitor numbers have increased by 40% over the last four years. We have been able to cope with these additional numbers with our existing staff of guides thanks to working closely with other teams within the building especially security and maintenance.
The exhibitions may be temporary but we work to ensure that there is a legacy. This may be a book, an exhibition guide or an addition to the permanent museum displays or to the catalogue record for an item. For the exhibition on Freemasons and the Royal Society earlier this year- to mark the 350th Anniversary of the Royal Society- we worked with a freemason in North Yorkshire to produce a list of more than 350 freemasons who were also Fellows of the Society. This added significantly to our knowledge of “famous” freemasons. The list is available on the Library and Museum website. Amongst the names included are Sir George Everest of mountain fame, the psychologist Charles Myers who is generally credited with the first use of the term “shell shock” and the zoologist Edward Hindle who, during a long and distinguished scientific career, can also claim to have introduced the golden hamster as a domestic pet.
But not everyone can or wants to come to central London and so we have found a number of ways of taking knowledge of the collections and sometimes items from the collections to them. Cataloguing of the collections continues on all fronts and the information is available on our electronic catalogue on our website. We have now catalogued all our sheet music- over 1500 items- archive material including the records of erased lodges and thousands of prints and photographs of individuals. We have undertaken a detailed analysis of what is required to catalogue and photograph all the items in the museum collection – that is 40,000 objects and includes everything from a lodge jewel to the 1790 Grand Master’s throne which stands over 3 metres high - and are working towards completing that by 2017.
Research resources can be provided electronically- the charts of lodge family trees and an electronic version of Lane’s Masonic Records listing all lodges warranted by UGLE and its predecessors are already available on line and we are bringing the latter list up to date. We will be starting a two year project to digitise English eighteenth and nineteenth century Masonic periodicals this Autumn. This will enable this material -which is a rich source of Masonic history but sadly lacking in comprehensive indexes – to be searchable.
Although the Centre for Masonic Research at Sheffield University has now closed, we have found that researchers from many academic bodies in the UK and abroad now use the collections. Recent publications on individuals as diverse as an eighteenth century French journalist and a nineteenth century Jewish humanitarian as well as a study of the development of Blackpool as a seaside resort have all used information from our records.
Those researchers would be amongst the 2,000 or more readers who are registered to use the library and archive collections- it’s just as well that they don’t all visit at once!
Library and Museum staff provide an enquiry service for letters and emails and I estimate that we answer over 3000 queries a year. Recently we have assisted the Victoria and Albert Museum identify a Masonic ring, we have helped the Swindon Local Studies Library find out more about the history of an important building in the town- the Mechanics’ Institute, not the Freemasons’ Hall- and we have researched the Masonic career of a Victorian photographer for English Heritage. Over the last ten years we have researched over 15,000 names for family historians.
As well as talks to lodges and chapters, staff have given presentations at conferences organised by the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre and the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry in Edinburgh. Papers have been given to professional and specialist groups including the Decorative Arts Medals Society, the Social History Curators Group, the Families in British India Society, the Halstead Trust Family History conference and to academic conferences in Liverpool, Leiden and Bordeaux.
Material from the collections is lent to other museums and items have been lent recently to the People’s History Museum in Manchester, the Helena Thompson Museum in Workington and to museums in Austria and Corsica.
The loan to the Helena Thompson Museum was organised with the Province of Cumberland and Westmorland as part of their local awareness campaign. Our work with provinces and districts has, over the last two years, focussed on the Historical Records Survey- although I am aware that there were some light hearted local variations in that name. The HRS project aimed to survey the extent and condition of all lodge and chapter records in England and Wales. The 60% or so response rate, which was a fantastic achievement by local co-ordinators and thousands of lodge secretaries and chapter scribes, will ensure that local Masonic history makes a considerable contribution to freemasonry’s tercentenary.
Those lodges and chapters that took part in the survey are able to apply to the Library and Museum for a small grant to help with the conservation of their records. We expect this to be a competitive scheme as we will not have enough funding to meet all the demands but I would encourage all eligible lodges and chapters to have a go. Even a small amount of funding can assist with the purchase of more appropriate boxes or packaging which can really make a difference to improving the way records are kept. Details are available from the Library and Museum or from provincial secretaries
We have also provided support for provinces for their charity festivals and for members’ education.
I wanted to take the opportunity here to mention the work of the Masonic Libraries and Museums Group which is run by representatives of provincial libraries and museums and which Library and Museum staff support. Many of these collections have been featured in Freemasonry Today over the years. Not only do these provincial museums hold items of national interest, many are also significant in terms of the local history of their area. Over the last ten years this group has helped to foster new museums and libraries in several provinces so that the heritage of freemasonry can be preserved at a local level. If you haven’t been to visit your provincial museum recently I think you will be surprised!
As I have mentioned on previous occasions, the Library and Museum has been awarded grants from external sources. This has continued with one recent grant enabling us to establish a properly racked paintings store and another contributing towards the conservation of our world class collection of Old Charges. The next few years will be challenging ones for cultural and heritage bodies as for many other groups and competition for more limited external funding will be intense. We monitor our cost base. The Library and Museum Council regularly reviews the performance of our professionally managed investment portfolio. The profits from the Shop here at Freemasons’ Hall are gift aided to the Library and Museum. Since 2003, the Shop has sold nearly 120,000 books- not all of them written by the Assistant Grand Secretary, more than 90,000 craft ties and 1,247 miniature Masonic teddy bears. Thank you for your support and do keep buying!
The Library and Museum already benefits from the support of Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter, the Friends of the Library and Museum and many individual lodges and chapters. As a registered charity we will be monitoring how the government encourages the development of charitable giving to make sure that we can take full advantage.
We are looking forward to making a major contribution to the Royal Arch bicentenary celebrations in 2013 with an exhibition and of course to the tercentenary in 2017. Before then, and probably along with every other museum and cultural institution in the country, we will be marking the 2012 Olympics in London. Our plans include an exhibition on Freemasonry and Sport which will cover the important role played by leading freemasons in the first London Olympics in 1908 as well as the Masonic involvement of sportsmen generally. We have already made contact with some sportsmen members to see how we can work together but I am always keen to hear about other initiatives and plans. We really would like our exhibition to reflect the personal sporting achievements of individual members.
In his recent interview in The Times the Grand Secretary’s role was described as “explaining the inner workings (of freemasonry) to a largely uncomprehending world”. I like to believe that a desire to comprehend is a factor in attracting more and more visitors to the Library and Museum and that our displays, exhibitions, guided tours and responses to enquiries can all help improve understanding. We in the Library and Museum are very happy to work alongside the Grand Secretary and the membership generally in that common cause.