Not everything in an apron is 'Masonic'
The Library and Museum is the first point of call for people across the world with 'Masonic' material in their possession, but very often the objects turn out to be from non-Masonic Orders and Friendly Societies.
Recently the Library and Museum has identified a 'Masonic' chair that turned out to be from the Worshipful Company of Plumbers, a 'Masonic' game that was a child's building set with an apparently Masonic trademark, and a pair of jewels from a children's temperance movement. Staff are able to help with identification because the collections in the Library and Museum are rich in non-Masonic material, from Druids to Old Friends, Buffaloes to Moose - the range of regalia and orders is seemingly infinite.
Very often the requests for identification of material come from other museums looking to catalogue items in their own collections.
Curator Mark Dennis put forward the idea of holding a session at this year's Museums Association conference in Brighton to introduce curators to the importance and diversity of fraternal material. This conference is the most important date in the year for UK museums. An exhibition, courtesy of Brighton Freemason and ex-mayor Andy Durr, was staged in the Brighton Fishing Museum to coincide with the conference. Opened by the Lord Mayor of Brighton and Hove, and attended by the Provincial Grand Master of Sussex and other Masons as well as conference delegates, the exhibition, co-organised by Fay Newman (Assistant Curator), was a great success.
The Library and Museum has organised a number of events recently for general audiences. During 'Napoleon's jewels' day, passers-by in Great Queen Street were surprised to see a French prisoner of war in full Napoleonic uniform. He was inviting them to visit Freemasons' Hall to find out why prisoners during the Napoleonic wars made Masonic jewels. Using paper, card, crayons, sequins and glitter, visitors were also encouraged to have a go at making their own jewel.
The Library and Museum's Summer exhibition this year will take visitors back to the early 18th century London, using the life and works of John Pine as a means of exploring the city in which he lived and worked. He engraved the famous maps produced by the cartographer John Rocque, the first detailed map of the streets of London and a precursor of today's A-Z. John Pine was the most famous engraver in 18th-century England, a friend of Hogarth and a Freemason. Pine's best known Masonic work is the Frontispiece of the 1723 Book of Constitutions and the early engraved lists of Lodges.
The exhibition will run from early July to mid-September. Further details are available from the Library and Museum on 020 7395 9257.
Freemasonry in Victorian Theatre and Music
The second half of the nineteenth century was a period of tremendous change in musical and theatrical performance. The development of a railway system made it possible for companies of actors and musicians from London to tour provincial cities.
Deregulation of London theatres fostered the growth in the number of theatres and of new forms of entertainment, notably the music hall.
Freemasonry was also growing rapidly during this period and the first Lodges where membership focussed on those in the music or theatrical profession were formed from about 1870.
The new exhibition at the Library and Museum in Freemasons' Hall will explore all these factors by focussing on the life and work of some of the individual freemasons involved. Conductor Sir Michael Costa, actor Sir Henry Irving and impresario Sir Augustus Harris, all senior Freemasons, were key figures. The exhibition will also include opera impresario Carl Rosa, the composers Wilhelm Ganz and William Spark and the theatre owner W S Penley.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Shop at Freemasons' Hall will be selling a new DVD entitled Freemasonry in Victorian Music and Theatre
which has been specially recorded in Freemasons' Hall and includes rare performances of the music and songs of the period including opera, ballads and some Victorian Masonic songs. Telephone orders can be made on 020 7395 9329. The exhibition opens on 12th January 2004 and runs until the end of June.
Web site created by Mark Griffin