Experienced researchers do a ‘literature search’ as a routine preliminary before commencing their own work, and another check before publication, to ensure that they know what has already been published on their subject. Obtaining results from books, widely published transactions (in hard copy or on CD), and popular Internet resources, is relatively simple. Far more difficult to find are the many papers presented in research lodges and elsewhere that are not widely published.
There must be papers published every week around the world with there being no way that any of us can find out anything about them—or even in most cases that they exist. They may include brilliant papers that we would be really interested in, but we will never know. There are some websites that carry quite a few papers, and these provide an interested reader with a lot of material. For a researcher, however, the ideal would be a large database of all papers from every Masonic research organisation around the world.
It was from such thoughts that a list of Masonic research papers was started in 2003, involving members of the Australia and New Zealand Masonic Research Council. The ‘catalogue’ was fairly quickly extended to a ‘digital library’—containing not just brief information about papers but also the text of each paper. A large impetus to this extension was given by the Research Lodge of Wellington, who decided to publish in electronic form all past papers from the commencement of the lodge in 1912.
Digital Library Software
There are a number of software packages available for ‘digital libraries’—these provide users with the ability to browse files (or electronic ‘books’) by displaying various lists, or searching using keywords or searching the text of the documents themselves. This makes searching much quicker than using normal file search programmes such as the ‘Find” function in Windows.
“Greenstone” digital library software (http://www.greenstone.org/ ) was selected as it is free, provides the ability to search documents by words and phrases, and allows flexibility in the type of data collected. Both the Catalogue and Masonic Digital Library use the same display formats and basic data for each paper. A Summary of this ‘metadata” is given in the Appendix.
First Edition—March 2008
The first edition of the ‘ANZMRC Catalogue’ and the ‘Masonic Digital Library’ were published by the ANZMRC on a single CD in March 2008. The catalogue contained 2,981 entries, and the library 1,690 entries with corresponding files.
In practice distribution by CD was not ideal. The CD was designed for PCs running Windows—additional work would be needed for Linux or Mac computers. Some users expected a CD to contain only data files, and were confused by an auto-start programme attempting to install something. Some did not normally use a web browser. CDs were time consuming to write, and provide no security once issued—they can be easily copied.
Basis of Participation
The initial focus was to encourage members of the ANZMRC to participate, building on existing exchange arrangements between lodges. Participants are able to provide a copy of the CD to their members at minimal cost (the physical cost of production of the CDs only), and most have provided free copies to their members. Provision was also made to enable the sale of the CD to individuals—at a cost of $25 that was expected to encourage membership of a participating research lodge instead. In practice no sales have been reported.
For the Catalogue, electronic data regarding published papers was requested in a set format—see the Appendix. If users of the catalogue wish to see an actual paper, they would have to contact the publishing Masonic research organisation. The contents of the Catalogue were intended to be freely available, but it has not yet been published separately from the Library
For the Masonic Digital Library, a “Participating Publisher” is expected to:
- provide basic data for each paper (as for the Catalogue),
- contribute files of actual papers that are available in electronic form,
- contribute files for future papers periodically,
- and if past papers are scanned and electronic files created, to contribute those if and when such work is done.
In effect, the Library is an extension of the exchange of transactions, but in electronic form. Masonic research organisations wishing to participate are not required to scan past papers, but this does make past papers more accessible to all members of the Masonic Digital Library.
All members of participating publishers (including individual contributors) may access the Library. Costs are shared between participating publishers; thus far they have been restricted to physical costs of CDs, and the aim is to keep them low or negligible.
Third Edition - May 2011
A Third edition of the Masonic Digital Library was implemented in May 2011. Participants are not required to be members of the ANZMRC, but most are members. It is accessible through the sponsorship of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand, with access to authorised members of participating reearch lodges through a username / password system. The ANZMRC would be interested in offers to sponsor or host a further mirror site in the USA or UK.
At this time priority is being given to the Masonic Digital Library; the Catalogue is on hold.
The size of the library collection has increased to 3,100 documents. They are now largely in pdf format rather than Word, and a small number of PowerPoint files are also included. Total document size is now 1.1Gb; the collection will not fit on a CD. Updates for further contributions will be able to be made periodically—probably every few months.
Further information regarding data needed for contributions to the library is available from the Compiler, Ed Robinson, you can contact him here.
Fourth Edition - May 2012
The Fourth edition was compiled in May 2012, and implemented through the website in September 2012. Participants continue to increase, and most are now regularly supplying further publications for the next update.
Access is now avaialble to all members of Participating masonic reserch organisations - names and email addresses must be provided by the representative of that organisation - usually the Secretary.
Enquiries are welcome from masonic research organisations interested in investigating possible particpiption - write to the Compiler