Museum of Freemasonry – The good from the bad

by Barry Hughes, Marketing and Communications Manager

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Museum along with Freemasons’ Hall closed its doors to the public in mid-March.

It was a sad day to close, shortly after the
start of the year, when so many plans had
yet to be realised. The decision was not
taken lightly, and the whole team knew
the implications of what the impending
nationwide lockdown would mean. Still,
we pulled together, hopeful that we would
cross the threshold of 60 Great Queen
Street in a few months’ time.

While in lockdown, the Museum team
worked hard on the readjustment. We
were all now working from home and
access to the collection was never more
limited. It’s quite an unusual situation,
to be a public-facing museum while at
the same time being cut off from the
collection. Obviously some services were
postponed, like family history searches,
tours and archival enquiries.

So, rather than pause everything, we
looked into alternative ways in which we
could operate.

One example that came to fruition was
our new ‘Online Talks’ series. Our
resident experts – Curator Mark, Archivist
Susan, Librarian Martin and Assistant
Archivist Louise, all pooled their
knowledge to bring out subjects for
discussion on Monday evenings. Everyone
seemed to be scheduling Zoom meetings
during lockdown, so we thought it may
be a good idea to use the Zoom platform
to present our experts’ talks.

With our latest team member on board,
Interpretation Manager Jane introduced
each talk. The first talk on Bro Loveless
Overton was so successful we had to do
it twice! The next six talks were just as
popular, and we recorded each one.

We now have a new YouTube channel to
host each recording for future access at,


Another great example is our collecting
initiative ‘Our COVID-19 Story’. Since
the beginning of the lockdown there were
questions raised about similar pandemics
in the past. We searched but couldn’t find
anything of note in our archives. We
recognised there was an opportunity now
to document how freemasons across the
UK and indeed the world were responding
to the crisis today. So, when the next
generation asks those same questions, there
is a credible source to point to.

Visit the Support section of our website
to hear how we are collecting physical
and digital items relating to freemasonry’s
experience of coronavirus at:


Finally, here we are today and the Museum
is once again open to the public; albeit with
social distancing measures in place. We
reopened the North Gallery so visitors can
enjoy the ‘Three centuries of English
Freemasonry’ exhibition along with the
‘Familiar Faces’ exhibition in the corridors.
The South Gallery is closed for restoration
work. If you would like to visit the
Museum, please book a free, timed entry
ticket directly from the website. The
Library and Archives are open Wednesday
to Saturday for research visits only. If you
wish to use the Library and Archives for
research, please telephone or email the
Museum as you won’t need to book a
ticket. Unfortunately we are unable to
provide tours for a while. It’s always best
to subscribe to our newsletter so you can
stay updated.

 To say the past year has been hard for
everyone is an understatement, but there
is light at the end of the tunnel. We’re
all taking some socially distanced steps
back to normality, and at Museum of
Freemasonry we are looking to the future
with a new major exhibition planned for
April 2021. Let’s all stay safe, look after
each other and enjoy that future together.

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 42 October 2020 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 42.