Gregory J. Knott
reprinted from Midnight Freemasons with permission
|Dr. Debra Reid (second row left) and students on exhibition project (and a few Masons)|
|That's me, Greg Knott and Michael Shirley|
So Greg Knott and I decided to take a drive to Charleston (IL) and meet up with Michael Shirley at the opening reception (Michael teaches history at EIU and was also involved in the project). I'm not sure what I expected, in fact, Greg asked me on the way down. In truth, I expected a couple display cases in the library--maybe an apron, a fez, and a couple Masonic lapel pins. What we found when we arrived at the Booth Library was truly remarkable. We weren't talking about a class project as I had interpreted that to mean. What we found was a very extensive museum-quality exhibition.
|See what I mean about location?|
|Demolay robe on display|
There were numerous displays, each on a different area of Freemasonry. There was a large case in the foyer that outlined in broad terms the scope of the entire exhibition. There were a number of remarkable pieces on display there--the most stunning of those pieces was a Demolay robe. There was another case that talked about perceptions and misconceptions about Freemasonry--it even had a movie poster from National Treasure with the prominent all-seeing eye as part of the poster design.
Considering how broad the subject is, the exhibition did a great job touching on various aspects of the Fraternity, and breaking it down for the uninitiated into easily digestible pieces.
|Famous Masons? Where do you suppose that idea came from?|
But the most impressive part was the collection of Masonic artifacts--a number of individuals and lodges loaned pieces for display. There were Knights Templar swords and antique uniform pieces, Scottish Rite caps, rings, jewels, rods, a couple beautiful antique aprons, old photos, a very old altar set (Bible, square and compass)--and yes, that Shriner's fez (which belonged to Michael Shirley). It was very impressive how many items they'd collected.
But the students were really the most impressive part for me--they had really learned their subject well, and had obviously enjoyed working on the exhibition a great deal. And it showed. One thing that I heard repeated several times, was just how much there was to Freemasonry. One of their greatest challenges was defining what they were going to explore in their exhibition. One of the students said she could fill an entire museum on the subject of Freemasonry alone. I told her there are entire museums, and libraries too, dedicated solely to the subject of Freemasonry--quite a few actually. Probably the best-known of these is the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Washington, D.C. A memorial and museum supported by all 50 United States Grand Lodges.
|PGM Noel C. Dicks at EIU|
|Dr. Debra A. Reid|
And the EIU staff involved: Bev Cruse, Stacey Knight-Davis, Philip Mohr, and Donna Nichols.
And the Freemasons involved: Michael Shirley (also served as Project Curator), Noel Dicks, Ryan D'Arcy, William Jones, Frank Lincoln, Marc Wilson, and Todd Creason.
And for those that loaned items for display: Coles County Historical Society, Library of Congress, Alex Gillespie, Frank Lincoln, Michael Shirley, Tuscola Lodge, Charleston Lodge, Villa Grove/Camargo Lodge, Westfield Lodge, and our Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Illinois.
And very special thanks also to Dr. Debra A. Reid for putting together such a terrific curriculum for her students.
"The Freemasons in Central Illinois" exhibition will be on display at the Booth Library at Eastern Illinois University until January 18th. If you are in the area, I strongly suggest you pay the library a visit.
Todd E. Creason, was the original Midnight Freemason. He's the author of several books and novels, including his popular Famous American Freemasons series. In 2012, Todd expanded his popular blog The Midnight Freemason into a collaborative effort Midnight Freemasons. Todd is the Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and a member of both the Scottish Rite, and York Rite. He's also a member of the Ansar Shrine (IL) and Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL). He is also the author of the blog From Labor To Refreshment . . .
WB Gregory J. Knott is the Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He's a member of both the Scottish Rite, and the York Rite, and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club in Champaign-Urbana. He's also a member of the Ansar Shrine (IL). Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts--an Eagle Scout himself, he serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. & A. M. as their representative to the National Association of Masonic Scouters.