The Trustees of the Princess Royal Union Lodge (P.R.U.) of Cobb’s Hill, Warwick have signed a Collections Management Agreement with the National Museum of Bermuda (NMB) to ensure the preservation of the Lodge’s historic papers and other holdings for the benefit of residents and visitors to Bermuda. This is an expression of Bermuda’s full heritage and a legacy of mainly its Black community.
The P.R.U. is a branch of the Independent Order of Good Samaritans and Daughters of Samaria, an egalitarian Friendly Society which empowered and supported Bermuda’s Black community for over a century. Following its establishment in 1899, P.R.U. remains as the last active Samaritan’s lodge.
The Lodge was historically active in many areas, not only meeting welfare needs, but also providing resources which were otherwise unavailable to the Black and poor White population. Some examples were insurance, savings and loan facilities; mentorship and education; and instruction in the skills and knowledge needed for informed civic participation.
Spokesperson for the Lodge stated, “With Lodge membership declining in recent years, the Trustees felt it was important to record and secure the preservation of the Lodge’s history for future generations. As a result, Lodge trustee Dr. Michael Bradshaw reached out to the Museum in 2019 to discuss collaborative documentation of the Lodge collection and a possible repository agreement.”
A small team from NMB including Conservator Zoe Brady, and interns Jaylen Simons and Andrew Wallace (now Assistant Registrar) worked on the project, photographing, cataloguing, cleaning, and housing over 300 items in archival-quality packing materials.
The Collection includes Lodge Charters, Minutes books and other documents; photographs; regalia; funerary clothing; symbolic objects and furniture used in Lodge meetings; and objects which were salvaged from other now-closed Samaritan lodges (Victoria Lodge and Philanthropic Lodges). Special inclusions are an ark dating back over 120 years and a preserved ‘dove icon’.
Dr. Michael Bradshaw commented on the collection, “This is an intact collection of a living and functioning lodge which is being shared with the world through the NMB when there are still members and witnesses alive and with ‘solid faculties’. Seldom do acquisitions of historic and cultural items occur with these advantages.”
The initial 10-year agreement was signed by P.R.U. Lodge Trustees and the Museum representatives and defines responsibilities for the care, conservation, risk management, access, and use of the Princess Royal Union Lodge Collection.
The collection will be transferred next week to the National Museum with items kindly fumigated by Bermuda Pest Control.
NMB Director Elena Strong said, “We are honoured to be entrusted with preserving the Princess Royal Union Lodge Collection and making sure it is available to Lodge members, our local and visiting community, and to relevant researchers.”