Robert L.D. Cooper  Author, Historian, Freemason.

Grand Lodge Digitisation Project

May 16th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

The Grand Lodge of Scotland (GLoS) is the guardian of some precious documents but also innumerable most mundane texts. As we all know paper, whether in the form of books of as loose sheets, takes up a lot of space together with the associated problems of searching the the material. Digital copies of paper makes life a lot easier.

Although designated as ‘Curator’ I am also Librarian and Archivist but the title: Curator, Librarian and Archivist of the Grand Lodge of Scotland Museum and Library is far too much of a mouthful!

Some years ago I commenced the Grand Lodge Digitisation project. The aim? To digitally copy all paper in Freemasons’ Hall, Edinburgh! An ambitious target but a worthy one and although it is very unlikely to be completed in my lifetime it is hoped that my successors will continue the project especially as it is now so well developed.

The first problem was deciding where to start as there so much to choose from. The oldest Minutes in the world perhaps? Lodge Petitions? However, I decided to tackle something easier first – some printed material. This was as a learning process and equipment assessment.

When Grand Lodges issues a Charter to a new Lodge it retains a copy. These are large documents – approximately three feet by two feet (0.93 m by 0.61 m). Their size meant that they could not be scanned on an A4 flatbed scanner so a digital camera was used (Nikon D500 fitted with a 60mm macro lens. The next problem was that to capture the whole document in a single image meant that the camera had to be placed approximately six feet (1.83 m) above the document. That required a very large tripod!

That experience taught me that a range of techniques and equipment would be needed to complete the task.

  1. Camera and tripod for very large documents
  2. Flatbed scanner for ephemera
  3. Book scanner for, well, books.t

Even then it was clear that there were some items that could not be dealt with onsite and professional digitisation services would be required. But it is the onsite digitisation which is under my direct supervision.

The early part of the project revealed the extent to which Grand Lodge archives have been under-resourced – this is not a criticism simply a statement of fact. But it is not too late if resources are made available now.

More to follow…

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