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New Exhibit on American Freemasonry Opens Spring 2008


New Exhibit on American Freemasonry Opens Spring 2008
By Mark A. Tabbert

A short story of American Freemasonry will soon be told in the George Washington Masonic Memorial. A new exhibit is scheduled to open late April 2008 and will fill a long, recognized need to tell visitors what Freemasonry is and its role in American history. Its central theme will compare the rough and perfect ashlars of Masonry to the lives of four American Freemasons: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, and Harry Truman.
Each of these men improved themselves as they improved their communities. Visitors will also be introduced to the tools, symbols and allegory of Freemasonry.

The exhibit's introduction will contain the large rough stone from King Solomon's quarry donated to the Memorial in the 1920s. At the back of the gallery will be a polished marble Masonic altar representing a perfect ashlar and a wall graphic of an early Masonic tressleboard. The exhibit will be divided into three main sections chronologically representing the 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s. Each section will be represented by a prominent American
Freemason of that century. The first section will explain the origins of Freemasonry in Great Britain and the first Lodges in the American colonies. Benjamin Franklin will be featured here. He printed the first Masonic book in America and served as a Provincial Grand Master. As he improved himself, he improved his community of Philadelphia, establishing a college, hospital, library and fire company, among his many achievements.

Andrew Jackson will be featured in the second section highlighting 19th century America and Freemasonry. As a Grand Master of Tennessee and our 7th U.S. President, Jackson made his fame though his actions as soldier and politician during the formative years of the United States. During his lifetime, Freemasonry enjoyed great prestige, but also suffered during the anti-Masonic period.

The 20th century will be seen through the actions of Harry Truman. Truly a self-made man, Truman served as Grand Master of Missouri while he was U.S. Senator. During his years as President, he improved international communities through the United Nations, the Marshall Plan, and many other organizations and treaties.

In the exhibit's center will be George Washington dressed as a Master Mason. Quotes from Franklin, Jackson and Truman about Washington will surround the figure. In this way visitors will be reminded of Washington as Founding Father and the great exemplifier of Masonic virtues. As the visitor
exits the exhibit, there will be a display case for the Grand Lodge of the Month Program. Lastly, visitors will be reminded that all Americans ought to improve themselves as they improve their community.

This exhibit will be the cornerstone that will tie in other reorganized displays on the first two levels of the Memorial. The hallway "mezzanine" around Grand Masonic Hall features enlarged reproduced postcards of major Masonic temples from around the nation. The current display of historical photographs about the Memorial's construction will be moved to the second floor south stairway. In 2008, they will be incorporated into a new display on the Memorial and Alexandria history. On the second floor north stairway we will create a display on the history of the Memorial Association. It will include busts and photographs of the past and current Association Presidents.

This permanent Masonic exhibit on American Freemasonry will be the focal point of other new displays currently under development in preparation for the Memorial's 100th Anniversary in 2010.

Mark A. Tabbert is the Director of Collections of the George
Washington Masonic Memorial.

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