The most obvious way that this was done was by it being open, free of charge, every weekday, including to people joining the regular guided tours. In the past four years, visitor numbers had increased by 40 per cent thanks to the existing staff of guides working with others, especially security and maintenance.
To mark the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society staff worked with North Yorkshire Province to produce a list of more than 350 masons who were also Fellows of the Society. The list is available on the Library and Museum website and include Sir George Everest of mountain fame, psychologist Charles Myers, generally credited with the first use of the term ‘shell-shock’, and zoologist Edward Hindle who, as part of his distinguished scientific career, introduced the golden hamster as a domestic pet.
Cataloguing of the collections continued and information was available on the electronic catalogue on the website. Staff had catalogued all the sheet music – over 1,500 items – and archive material including the records of erased lodges and thousands of prints and photographs of individuals.
They had also undertaken a detailed analysis of what is required to catalogue and photograph all the items in the museum collection – 40,000 objects.
They will be starting a two-year project to digitise English eighteenth and nineteenth-century masonic periodicals this autumn, which will become available in comprehensive indexes and searchable. There are also more than 2,000 readers registered to use the archive collections.
Library and Museum staff also answer more than 3,000 queries a year and had given presentations at conferences and presented papers to professional and specialist groups. Material from the collections had been lent to other museums at home and abroad.
Work with provinces and districts has focused on the Historical Records Survey, which aimed to discover the extent and condition of all lodge and chapter records in England and Wales. The 60 per cent or so response rate, which was a fantastic achievement by local co-ordinators and thousands of lodge secretaries and chapter scribes, would ensure that local masonic history made a considerable contribution to Freemasonry’s tercentenary.
The Masonic Libraries and Museums Group is run by representatives of provincial libraries and museums and which Library and Museum staff support. Over the past ten years this group has helped to foster new museums and libraries in several provinces so that the heritage of Freemasonry could be preserved at a local level.
The Library and Museum has been awarded grants from external sources. One recent grant enabled them to establish a properly racked paintings store, another contributed towards the conservation of the world-class collection of Old Charges. Profits from the shop at Freemasons’ Hall are gift-aided to the Library and Museum. Since 2003, the shop had sold nearly 120,000 books, more than 90,000 Craft ties and 1,247 miniature masonic teddy bears.
The Library and Museum was looking forward to making a major contribution to the Royal Arch bicentenary celebrations in 2013 with an exhibition and to the tercentenary in 2017.
They would also be marking the 2012 Olympics in London. Plans include an exhibition on Freemasonry and Sport which will cover the important role played by leading masons in the first London Olympics in 1908 as well as the masonic involvement of sportsmen generally.
Venue: The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5AZ
Exhibition dates: Thursday 1 July – Thursday 23 December 2010
Exhibition free of charge to all visitors
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm. Museum closed at weekends
Visitor information: www.freemasonry.london.museum or 020 7395 9257