Retaining old prints is an important
part of digitising Lodge records
The safe custody of Lodge records has been
a dilemma faced by many Lodge secretaries
over the years, and it becomes ever more
problematic for those Lodges with a long
history of continuous meetings. Some of the
problems, although very basic, are extremely
difficult to overcome, as in the case of
Cotehele Lodge No. 2166 in the Province
The basic problem was that our storage
area was unsuitable for storing paper.
The books generally were suffering from
the effects of the damp and poor storage.
Unfortunately, over the years, three of the
Minute Books and a number of Attendance
Registers were misplaced and are lost
forever. The Lodge does not have much
space for storage and did not have the
funds to acquire a secure, damp-proof
Since 2000 I have been involved in the
digital archiving of paper records (books,
manuscripts etc) and I have undertaken
work for the National Library of Scotland,
Essex Record Office, Longleat Library and
numerous other libraries and Museums.
I am also a member of Cotehele Lodge.
Lodge secretary Charlie Dore was
concerned about the poor condition of the
Lodge Records and asked my advice on
their preservation. I suggested that we take
the bull by the horns and digitally capture
all the registers and books that we had
available and this suggestion was accepted.
The archive consists of 17 books. Initially
they had to be aired and a number of the
books were gently cleaned prior to work
commencing. Digital capture took 25
working days, 3,743 images were captured,
and some 62.5 Gigabyte of image data was
saved to 19 DVDs for archival purposes.
Having digitised the material we were
then able to look at the next stage of
protection for the Lodge records. As a
temporary measure the books have been
vacuum packed, which will protect them
for the immediate future. It is hoped that
the original documents will be put into the
safe keeping of the County Records Office,
although this will have to be done through
Digital imaging allowed us the
opportunity to make the records available
to Lodge members on DVD, created
using Jpeg images and “Archangel”
retrieval software. Included is a spreadsheet
providing an index of the records.
A panorama of our temple has also
been included to round off the DVD.
We believe that Cotehele is the first
Lodge in the UK (maybe the world) to
have had all its records digitised. Cotehele
Lodge has sent a copy of the Archive on
DVD to Provincial Grand Lodge, the
United Grand Lodge Museum and Library,
with an additional copy being supplied to
Masonic Research Department at Sheffield
University. Bedford Lodge No. 252,
Province of Devonshire, have contracted
to have their Minute Books digitised and
this work is in progress.
Digitisation of records is exciting and
it is a wonderful opportunity to make
records easily accessible, but it is essential
that professionals undertake the work
and that best practice is followed using
appropriate digital storage mediums.
It is equally important that the Provincial
officers, the UGLE Museum Archivist
and the local archives, where appropriate,
are kept informed of what is being done.
It should be noted that the digital record
must then be preserved. This is less onerous
than with paper records, but it is equally
important if we are to ensure the longevity
of the storage medium, which involves the
storage, review and if necessary, rewriting
discs. If we do it right, then we can claim
to be saving our past for the future!
Ross Heriot, Imagelife, 08450560244
(Mobile: 07971062110), www.imagelife.co.uk