See the New York Times for the complete article:
Masonic Lodges Open Those Mysterious Doors
A replica of a mildewed 14th- century scroll has been unfurled and displayed at a library in New York. An eagle clutching arrows and ribbons, on a tattered flag made around 1803, has just been restored and framed for viewing at a Philadelphia museum. Near Boston a museum exhibition decodes cryptic symbols like compasses and columns embossed on metal badges and embroidered onto aprons.
That the public is now being enthusiastically shown these previously hidden-away items indicates that Freemasons in America are trying to shed their reclusive, somewhat fusty image. Tour guides at the groups’ lavishly ornamented lodges, mostly built around 1900, are explaining ceremonial rituals in newly restored rooms with murals of ancient builders polishing stones and vitrines full of gold pendants and domed velvet hats.
“We’re trying to help more people hear our story accurately,” said H. Robert Huke, the communications and development director at the Grand Lodge of Masons of Massachusetts, an 1899 state headquarters in downtown Boston covered in sunburst mosaics. When curiosity seekers get to visit Masonic rooms, he added, “they’re less inclined to think we’re trying to control the world and run the banks.”
Freemasons have been portrayed as conspirators in books like Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” and “The Lost Symbol” (due on Sept. 15) and the “National Treasure” movies starring Nicolas Cage. The truth is less entertaining. Founded around 1600 by British stonemasons, the men-only clubs hold closed sessions mainly to teach ecumenical ethics codes and raise money for charity, especially medical care. On their lodge walls and ceremonial clothing, motifs like eyes, beehives and drafting tools refer to virtues like steadfastness, tolerance and industriousness.
As befits an organization set up by builders, the clubs are now spending millions of dollars repairing their architectural splendors. In the last year the Masons in Boston have restored spaces with gilded, coffered ceilings and imposing names like the Chamber of Reflection and Corinthian Hall.
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