In 2006, Grand Master of Masons in Maine, Most Worshipful Brother Gerald M. Leighton determined that technology had attained a level that would support efforts to make the important documents of the Grand Lodge of Maine available to genealogists, historians, researchers and others. While some of the material identified dealt specifically with internal procedural matters, the wealth of information about individuals in place and time is unlike anything available even in contemporary histories.
Several options were explored and ultimately the Webmaster presented a proposal which would include scanning, online availability on the Grand Lodge's web site, and creation of 'container software' to permit moving the material into future formats still unknown.
The Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation has endorsed this project and provided the operating funds for equipment.
Items identified for preservation/access include the following:
- Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Maine from 1820 to present
- Lodge Histories from all lodges in the State
- Books about Freemasonry in Maine
- Books about Masonry by Maine Masons
Ultimately, it is hoped that this collection can be supplemented by period photographs provided by various historical societies and families.
The first step was to identify the means/modes of capturing the information involved. In the case of the Grand Lodge Proceedings and books about Maine Masonry and from Maine Masons, photo images of the actual bound pages were felt to be extraneous from a historical perspective. Lodge Histories, however, due to the wide scope of format required not only html (web) 'translation' but also the opportunity to view the original document as it might be viewed in person. Accordingly, a multi-step process was employed that involved:
- capture of the document page in 'picture' form
- optical character recognition
- conversion to html format for readability by anyone on the web
- placement/retention in software capable of multi-format 'translations' that will permit output to later developed 'standards'
The object was to do the project once, with the results capable of being ported to options as yet unknown. Changing or redoing formats every couple of years would surely be overlooked thus potentially losing the work product if the original options were not chosen carefully.
In addition, by choosing a photography scanning solution we were able to enhance the web presentation when appropriate. Moreover, the photographs will be retained for prosperity in several formats and on several media. They are being saved in the currently-standard JPG format and stored to a portable hard drive as well as CD and DVD.
You can learn more about our equipment and process here.
Our 'proof project' was digitization of the book by Ralph J. Pollard on the History of Maine Freemasonry. Having used this to learn our equipment and hone the process of conversion to HTML output, we will now move forward to begin scanning other material as it is made available.
We welcome comments and suggestions as to how we might make this material more accessible for YOU and would also love to add your photographs or other material that might enhance this site for the use by all with an interest in Maine's history.