Collections Development Policy
Name of museum: The Library and Museum Charitable Trust known as Museum of Freemasonry (“the Library, Museum and Archives”)
Name of governing body: The Council of the Library and Museum Charitable Trust
Date on which this policy was approved by The Council of the Library and Museum Charitable Trust: 5th March 2019
Date at which this policy is due for review: March 2024
Arts Council England will be notified of any changes to the collections development policy, and the implications of any such changes for the future of collections.
Relationship to other relevant policies / plans of the organisation:
1.1 Museum of Freemasonry’s statement of purpose
The Library, Museum and Archives houses one of the world’s leading collections of Masonic books, artefacts and ephemera. The whole collection held by the Museum was awarded Designated status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council in 2007.
To deliver our current strategic objectives we are committed to increasing access (intellectually, physically and digitally), improving the care and storage of the collections, reviewing significance and rationalising, enhancing the information we hold and intellectually developing them. Additionally, we want to grow the use of our collections for research, increase their availability online and make strategic acquisitions to ensure we are collecting for tomorrow.
The purpose of the Library, Museum and Archives, as expressed in its Trust Deed, is:
To collect, preserve, conserve, display and make available to enquirers the archives, records, printed material, regalia, jewels and artefacts of Freemasonry and the continued running of a library and museum for the benefit of the general public and making the items available for research and education and the preservation of the items as collections
1.2 The Council to the Library, Museum and Archives will ensure that both acquisition and disposal are carried out openly and with transparency.
1.3 By definition, the Library, Museum and Archives long-term purpose is to hold the collections in trust for the benefit of the public in relation to its stated objectives. The Council of the Library, Museum and Archives therefore accepts the principle that sound curatorial reasons must be established before consideration is given to any acquisition to the collection, or the disposal of any items in the Library, Museum and Archives collections.
1.4 Acquisitions outside the current stated policy will only be made in exceptional circumstances.
1.5 The Library, Museum and Archives recognises its responsibility, when acquiring additions to its collections, to ensure that care of collections, documentation arrangements and use of collections will meet the requirements of the Museum Accreditation Standard. This includes using SPECTRUM primary procedures for collections management. It will take into account limitations on collecting imposed by such factors as staffing, storage and care of collection arrangements.
1.6 The Library, Museum and Archives will undertake due diligence and make every effort not to acquire, whether by purchase, gift or bequest any object or specimen unless the governing body or responsible officer is satisfied that the Library, Museum or Archives can acquire a valid title to the item in question.
1.7 The Library, Museum and Archives will not undertake disposal motivated principally by financial reasons.
History of the Collections
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry was established in 1837 and holds a collection of books, objects and archives relating to freemasonry and other friendly and fraternal societies. Initially a resource for members of United Grand Lodge of England, it opened to the public in the mid-1980s and registered as a charitable trust in 1997.
The permanent collection of the Museum that existed before the change in 1997 is now a loan from the United Grand Lodge of England. The loan was established in 1997, amended in 2001 and more recently in 2009 to increase the term to a 20-year renewable period. It makes up approximately 81.5% of the collection and, where not already done so, will be accessioned and catalogued to create an audit trail. From 1997, new acquisitions, whether purchased or donated, normally belong to the Library and Museum Charitable Trust.
An overview of existing collections
Library: The Library currently retains 50-60,000 items, including books, periodicals, manuscripts, sheet music, audio-visual material and electronic media relating to freemasonry, other fraternal societies and mystical and esoteric traditions, from around the world, in English and other languages. These include:
- Lodge and Royal Arch Chapter histories
- Histories of freemasonry in particular countries/regions/areas
- Official publications produced by Grand Lodges and other masonic governing bodies including proceedings, year books and lists of lodges
- Books relating to different masonic orders
- Transactions of research lodges
- Ritual books
- Anti-masonic material
- Material relating to masonic charities
- Ephemera and pamphlet material
- Documents including certificates
- Masonic song books and sheet music
- Fiction with masonic themes
- Books relating to other fraternal orders, friendly societies, esoteric orders and secret societies, especially those with links to or those that were influenced by freemasonry
In addition to the permanent collection, the library also retains a small number of loans from individual lodges, chapters and other masonic organisations. These include the libraries of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076 (the world’s oldest research lodge) and the library of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (an esoteric masonic order).
Museum: The Museum collection is comprised of approximately 30,000 objects related to freemasonry and other fraternal societies, from the United Kingdom and around the world. These include:
- Textiles, jewels and objects including furniture which have been used in Masonic ceremonial or in masonic locations, or were presented to freemasons or are associated with social, charitable or commemorative masonic events or with mystical or esoteric traditions or with fraternal organisations or friendly societies
- Objects including porcelain, pottery, glass and metalwork which are decorated with imagery from freemasonry or mystical and esoteric traditions or from fraternal organisations or friendly societies
- Textiles, jewels and objects which reflect attitudes towards freemasonry, mystical and esoteric traditions, fraternal organisations or friendly societies
- Objects including porcelain, pottery, glass and metalwork made by freemasons and exhibiting a direct or indirect relationship to their masonic life
- Art works including paintings, framed prints and sculpture
The largest section of the collection is jewels and medals, numbering nearly half of the total collection. Approximately 7% of the Museum collection is deposited by lodges, chapters and individuals on five year renewable loans but these are being re-evaluated for relevance. The Museum also accepts and lends items on a short-term basis, for example, for exhibitions.
Archives: The Archive collection is comprised of 3.25 linear kilometres and includes documents, prints, drawings, films, private papers, audiovisual material and digital assets. These include:
- The archives and records of the United Grand Lodge of England and Supreme Grand Chapter of England, their predecessor bodies, buildings and sites associated with freemasonry, charitable bodies associated with freemasonry, individual freemasons, lodges and chapters
- films, sound recordings, photographs, drawings and prints of: individuals or groups of freemasons; members of fraternal organisations or friendly societies; masonic meeting places; items decorated with imagery associated with these organisations
- Digital assets of museum, library and archive resources selected for permanent preservation
- Archives relating to the Golden Dawn and associated esoteric bodies
- Research papers relating to all aspects of freemasonry and the Golden Dawn and associated esoteric bodies
- Personal archives of freemasons relating to all aspects of freemasonry and the Golden Dawn and associated esoteric bodies
Themes and priorities for future collecting
4.1 The Museum of Freemasonry (including the Library and Archive) will collect proactively in priority areas (active collecting) whilst also taking selective advantage of the many unsolicited offers it receives each year (reactive collecting).
4.2 It will collect items which have significant display or research potential, now and for the future.
4.3 It will collect items which have compelling stories, which represent the experiences of people from different backgrounds, and which have the capacity to enable diverse audiences to learn about freemasonry in all its social, historical and cultural richness.
4.4 Priority will be given to items, which support the delivery of the Museum’s audience development plan and interpretation strategy.
4.5 In particular, items that reflect freemasonry’s place in the contemporary world and in popular culture will be actively collected in order to set freemasonry in its broader context and to ensure that the collection is a true representation of the modern experience of freemasonry by members and society.
4.6 When acquiring items, the Museum will seek selectively to acquire contextual material such as images, documents or digital media which enrich the story-telling capacity or research value of the item.
4.7 Duplicate items will not be collected unless there is a specific reason for doing so, for example, relating to display or research uses.
4.8 In future, the three departments of the Museum of Freemasonry will collect the following:
4.8.1 The Library will continue to acquire books, periodicals, manuscripts, printed music, documents and audio-visual material relating to freemasonry and other fraternal societies from around the world, mystical and esoteric traditions where they are linked with, or provide context to, the evolution of freemasonry and its place in society, in English and other languages. This will includes representations of freemasonry in popular culture (e.g. novels, plays, music and movies). Acquisitions may be made within the United Kingdom and throughout the rest of the world.
The Library no longer collects masonic bibles, biographies of famous freemasons without reference to freemasonry, and some masonic documents, including lodge and chapter summonses and standard masonic certificates, unless they relate to someone notable.
4.8.2 The Museum will continue to acquire objects and artefacts associated with freemasonry, all as stated in 3: Museum above. The Museum will also acquire these types of items from mystical and esoteric traditions, fraternal organisations and friendly societies where they are linked with, or provide context to, the evolution of freemasonry and its place in society. The Museum collection will focus primarily on the period from, and immediately preceding, the formation of the first Grand Lodge in 1717. Acquisitions may be made within the United Kingdom and throughout the rest of the world. The museum will actively collect objects associated with contemporary freemasonry and freemasonry as represented in popular culture.
4.8.3 The Archives will continue to acquire records and archives relating to the United Grand Lodge of England, the Supreme Grand Chapter and their predecessor organisations and associated bodies in accordance with retention policies and other sectoral guidance. This includes records relating to erased Lodges and Chapters held on behalf of the Grand Master unless such records are held on deposit in local authority or national record repositories by agreement with Masonic Provinces or Districts. In addition the Archives will hold on deposit archives and records relating to the Masonic Charitable Foundation of the United Grand Lodge of England and its predecessor organisations.
The Archives will continue to acquire archives and records relating to the Golden Dawn and associated esoteric bodies to supplement existing collections owned or held on deposit by the Museum of Freemasonry.
The Archives will consider acquiring archives and records created or collected by masonic and other researchers relating to the core collections of the Museum of Freemasonry and masonic research themes, as well as photographs, prints, films and sound recordings where they are linked with, or provide context to, the evolution of freemasonry and its place in society, in English and other languages.
The Archives will continue to acquire all such records and archives in various media formats including photographs, films, sound recordings, digital records and other resources.
The Archives does not collect archival material records relating to other fraternal organisations or societies unless specified above.
Themes and priorities for rationalisation and disposal
5.1 The Library, Museum and Archives recognises that the principles on which priorities for rationalisation and disposal are determined will be through a formal review process that identifies which collections are included and excluded from the review. The outcome of review and any subsequent rationalisation will not reduce the quality or significance of the collection and will result in a more useable, well managed collection.
5.2 The procedures used will meet professional standards. The process will be documented, open and transparent. There will be clear communication with key stakeholders about the outcomes and the process.
5.3 The Museum collection contains significant duplication and may also include items that would not now be considered appropriate for acquisition. The Reviewing Significance 3.0 methodology published by the Collections Trust in 2018 will be used as a robust means of determining which items should potentially be removed from the collections. The review will cover all aspects of the collection but focus initially on decorative art items and regalia.
Legal and ethical framework for acquisition and disposal of items
6.1 The Library, Museum and Archives recognises its responsibility to work within the parameters of the Museum Association Code of Ethics when considering acquisition and disposal.
Collecting policies of other museums
7.1 The Library, Museum and Archives will take account of the collecting policies of other museums, libraries and archives and other organisations collecting in the same or related areas or subject fields. It will consult with these organisations where conflicts of interest may arise or to define areas of specialism, in order to avoid unnecessary duplication and waste of resources.
7.2 Specific reference is made to the following accredited Masonic museums:
- The Kent Masonic Library and Museum Trust
- The Worcestershire Masonic Library and Museum Trust
- The Warrington Museum of Freemasonry
7.3 The Board of General Purposes of the United Grand Lodge of England has stated that it will support the acquisitions by the Library, Museum and Archives and will not compete with it.
8.1 As the Museum of Freemasonry holds archives, including photographs and printed ephemera, the Council will be guided in accordance within the framework of standards kept under review by the National Archives, the Archives and Records Association and the AIM Success Guides: Successfully Managing Archives in Museums by Emma Chaplain and Janice Tullock, 2015.
8.2 The Archive Collection is catalogued in accordance with ISAD(G) International Cataloguing Standard and other sectoral guidance.
9.1 The Museum of Freemasonry has a process for approving acquisitions. This applies to all acquisitions for the Museum collection. Some types of acquisition for the Library and Archive collections are exempt from this process, as detailed below.
9.2 Every potential new acquisition for the permanent collection must have an acquisition proposal completed by a relevant member of collections team. This will be presented to the Collections Development Committee for discussion and recommendation. The committee is formed of a group of museum staff representative of those departments with an interest in the acquisition of the new material. If the proposed acquisition is recommended for approval by the Committee then it is taken to the Director for final approval and sign off. Individual purchases over £1,000 require the agreement of the LMCT Council.
9.3 Exceptions to the acquisition process are as follows:
9.3.1 Library: Potential new acquisitions, both donations and purchases, to the Library’s permanent collection must have an acquisition proposal, which is then sent to the Collections Development Committee for consideration, with the following exceptions:
- Lodge histories
- Histories of freemasonry within geographical areas (e.g. provinces, districts, countries, regions etc.)
- Published and unpublished academic works, including Masters degrees and PhDs about and including freemasonry as a subject
- Official publications of the United Grand Lodge of England, its Provinces and Districts (e.g. year books, lists of lodges, periodicals)
- Official publications of other Grand Lodges from around the world
- Official publications by other masonic bodes in the United Kingdom and around the world (e.g. publications of the various female masonic orders, additional masonic degrees and orders and appendant bodies)
- Official publications of masonic charities that are part of the Masonic Charitable Foundation of the United Grand Lodge of England and transactions of research lodges in England and the rest of the world
The acquisition of material to the Library collection from the listed exceptions above must be approved by the Librarian.
All other material will be referred to the Collections Development Committee, including purchases of all books costing £100 or more.
9.3.2 Archives: Potential new acquisitions, both donations and purchases, to the Archives’ permanent collection must have an acquisition proposal, which is then sent to the Collections Development Committee for consideration, with the following exceptions:
- Records and archives relating to the United Grand Lodge of England and their predecessor organisations and associated bodies in accordance with retention policies and other sectoral guidance and erased Lodge records
- Records and archives relating to the Supreme Grand Chapter and their predecessor organisations and associated bodies in accordance with retention policies and other sectoral guidance and erased Chapter records
The acquisition of material into the Archive collection from the exceptions listed above must be approved by the Archivist.
9.4 Gifts and bequests shall only be accepted on the basis that any conditions are approved by the Council of the Library, Museum and Archives, and in all cases reference will be made to the limitations on collections as specified in this policy. The Library, Museum and Archives shall reserve the right to refuse any offer of material, in whole or in part.
9.5 The Library, Museum and Archives will not normally accept material on loan unless for the purpose of temporary exhibition or copying, or where the item is of exceptional interest to the Library, Museum and Archives. Any loan will be agreed in writing by the lender and the Library, Museum and Archives, including allocation of responsibilities for insurance and transport arrangements and shall be for a specified fixed term only, renewable in writing.
9.6 The Library, Museum and Archives will not acquire any object or specimen unless it is satisfied that the object or specimen has not been acquired in, or exported from, its country of origin (or any intermediate country in which it may have been illegally owned) in violation of that country’s laws. (For the purposed of this paragraph ‘country of origin’ includes the United Kingdom).
9.7 In accordance with the provisions of the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, which the UK ratified with effect from November 1 2002, and the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003, the Library, Museum and Archives will reject any items that have been illicitly traded. The Council will be guided by the national guidance on the responsible acquisition of cultural property issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in 2005.
10.1 The Library, Museum and Archives does not hold or intend to acquire any human remains.
Biological and geological material
11.1 So far as biological and geological material is concerned, the Library, Museum and Archives will not acquire by any direct or indirect means any specimen that has been collected, sold or otherwise transferred in contravention of any national or international wildlife protection or natural history conservation law or treaty of the United Kingdom or any other country, except with the express consent of an appropriate outside authority.
12.1 The Library, Museum and Archives will not acquire archaeological material (including excavated ceramics) in any case where the governing body or responsible officer has any suspicion that the circumstances of their recovery involved a failure to follow the appropriate legal procedures.
12.2 In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the procedures include reporting finds to the landowner or occupier of the land and to the proper authorities in the case of possible treasure (i.e. the Coroner for Treasure) as set out in the Treasure Act 1996 (as amended by the Coroners & Justice Act 2009).
13.1 Any exceptions to the above clauses will only be because the Library, Museum and Archives is:
- acting as an externally approved repository of last resort for material of local (UK) origin
- acting with the permission of authorities with the requisite jurisdiction in the country of origin
In these cases the Library, Museum and Archives will be open and transparent in the way it makes decisions and will act only with the express consent of an appropriate outside authority. The Library, Museum and Archives will document when these exceptions occur.
14.1 The Library, Museum and Archives will use the statement of principles ‘Spoliation of Works of Art during the Nazi, Holocaust and World War II period’, issued for non-national museums in 1999 by the Museums and Galleries Commission.
The Repatriation and restitution of objects and human remains
15.1 The Library, Museum and Archives’ governing body, acting on the advice of the Library, Museum and Archives’ professional staff, if any, may take a decision to return human remains (unless covered by the ‘Guidance for the care of human remains in museums’ issued by DCMS in 2005), objects or specimens to a country or people of origin. The Library, Museum and Archives will take such decisions on a case by case basis; within its legal position and taking into account all ethical implications and available guidance. This will mean that the procedures described in 16.1-5 will be followed but the remaining procedures are not appropriate.
16.1 All disposals will be undertaken with reference to the SPECTRUM Primary Procedures on disposal.
16.2 The Council will confirm that is legally free to dispose of an item. Agreements on disposal made with donors will be taken into account.
16.3 When disposal of an object, book or archive item is being considered, the Library, Museum and Archives will establish if it was acquired with the aid of an external funding organisation. In such cases, any conditions attached to the original grant will be followed. This may include repayment of the original grant and a proportion of the proceeds if the item is disposed of by sale.
16.4 When disposal is motivated by curatorial reasons the procedures outlined below will be followed and the method of disposal may be by gift, sale, exchange or, as a last resort, destruction.
16.5 The decision to dispose of material from the collections will be taken by the governing body only after full consideration of the reasons for disposal. Other factors including public benefit, the implications for the museum’s collections and collections held by museums and other organisations collecting the same material or in related fields will be considered. Expert advice will be obtained and the views of stakeholders such as donors, researchers, local and source communities and others served by the museum will also be sought.
16.6 A decision to dispose of a specimen or object, whether by gift, exchange, sale or destruction (in the case of an item too badly damaged or deteriorated to be of any use for the purposes of the collections or for reasons of health and safety), will be the responsibility of the governing body of the museum acting on the advice of professional curatorial staff, if any, and not of the curator or manager of the collection acting alone.
16.7 Once a decision to dispose of material in the collection has been taken, priority will be given to retaining it within the public domain. It will therefore be offered in the first instance, by gift or sale, directly to other Accredited Museums likely to be interested in its acquisition.
16.8 If the material is not acquired by any Accredited museum to which it was offered as a gift or for sale, then the museum community at large (including other Masonic museums, libraries or archives) will be advised of the intention to dispose of the material normally through a notice on the MA’s Find an Object web listing service, an announcement in the Museums Association’s Museums Journal or in other specialist publications and websites (if appropriate).
16.9 The announcement relating to gift or sale will indicate the number and nature of specimens or objects involved, and the basis on which the material will be transferred to another institution. Preference will be given to expressions of interest from other Accredited Museums. A period of at least two months will be allowed for an interest in acquiring the material to be expressed. At the end of this period, if no expressions of interest have been received, the Library, Museum and Archives may consider disposing of the material to other interested individuals and organisations giving priority to organisations in the public domain.
16.10 Any monies received by the Council from the disposal of items will be applied solely and directly for the benefit of the collections. This normally means the purchase of further acquisitions. In exceptional cases, improvements relating to the care of collections in order to meet or exceed Accreditation requirements relating to the risk of damage to and deterioration of the collections may be justifiable. Any monies received in compensation for the damage, loss or destruction of items will be applied in the same way. Advice on those cases where the monies are intended to be used for the care of collections will be sought from Arts Council England.
16.11 The proceeds of a sale will be allocated so it can be demonstrated that they are spent in a manner compatible with the requirements of the Accreditation standard. Money must be restricted to the long-term sustainability, use and development of the collection.
16.12 Full records will be kept of all decisions on disposals and the items involved and proper arrangements made for the preservation and/or transfer, as appropriate, of the documentation relating to the items concerned, including photographic records where practicable in accordance with SPECTRUM Procedure on deaccession and disposal.
16.13 Disposal by exchange
16.13.1 The nature of disposal by exchange means that the Library, Museum and Archives will not necessarily be in a position to exchange the material with another Accredited museum. The Council will therefore ensure that issues relating to accountability and impartiality are carefully considered to avoid undue influence on its decision-making process.
16.13.2 In cases where the governing body wishes for sound curatorial reasons to exchange material directly with Accredited or non-Accredited museums, with other organisations or with individuals, the procedures in paragraphs 16.1-5 will apply.
16.13.3 If the exchange is proposed to be made with a specific Accredited museum, other Accredited museums which collect in the same or related areas will be directly notified of the proposal and their comments will be requested.
16.13.4 If the exchange is proposed with a non-Accredited museum, with another type of organisation or with an individual, the museum will place a notice on the MA’s Find an Object web listing service, or make an announcement in the Museums Association’s Museums Journal or in other specialist publications and websites (if appropriate).
16.13.5 Both the notification and announcement must provide information on the number and nature of the specimens or objects involved both in the museum’s collection and those intended to be acquired in exchange. A period of at least two months must be allowed for comments to be received. At the end of this period, the governing body must consider the comments before a final decision on the exchange is made.
16.14 Disposal by destruction
16.14.1 Destruction is an acceptable method of disposal in cases where an object is in extremely poor condition, has high associated health and safety risks or is part of an approved destructive testing request identified in an organisation’s research policy.
16.14.2 Where necessary, specialist advice will be sought to establish the appropriate method of destruction. Health and safety risk assessments will be carried out by trained staff where required.
16.14.3 The destruction of objects should be witnessed by an appropriate member of the museum workforce. In circumstances where this is not possible, e.g. the destruction of controlled substances, a police certificate should be obtained and kept in the relevant object history file.