This weekend I have been enjoying The Quarry Project and hanging out with fellow writers and editors who are engaged in Masonic research, academic writing, library and museum work, preservation, publishing, and more. The conference has been a breath of fresh air, full of people who want to put an academic and authentic spin on the stories we tell about Masons and Masonry, and reveal truths while honoring the stories for what they are.
One of the highlights for me was Dr. Susan Sommers of Saint Vincent College, a historian and expert on Freemasonry (who is also sure to note that she is not a “lady Mason”), who on the first day spoke in a general session about the process of studying and writing about history. She talked about sources of information beyond just the surface story or oral tradition about what happened. She also said, as I have often suspected, that there may be more aprons in lodge museums that were supposedly worn by George Washington than there is proof of meetings he actually attended. It is refreshing to hear some of this legend challenged, and not in a negative way, but in a scholarly way. Her attitude, she says, is one of “sympathetic skepticism.”
Note that there have been female presenters in the schedule and it is not just old white guys, as Freemasons are sometimes suspected of being. There is a good mix of young and old, new and seasoned, and different ethnicities. This is definitely a conference with a scholarly focus, and I love that. I may not be the best writer or researcher but it is something I have a great appreciation for – finding some nugget of truth, challenging assumptions, finding proof, and presenting findings. This is one thing from which we can all benefit. If we are a society of people who value being brought to light, then having meetings like this is a huge boon, being able to learn and find new ways to seek light and truth. We can only grow through this process.
Sunday’s talks will include discussion of future Quarry Project meetings. I sincerely hope that there are future meetings like this because they are invaluable to the future study of our craft. Keeping the open nature of this – making it a scholarly discourse – is good for finding facts from which we can distill the truth of our orders. This is the first time the conference has taken place. The future is uncertain. I certainly hope we can continue this.