Monday, October 16, 2006

Mass Observation. Oh yes.

Ok, strap yourselves in, because today is a bit of a specialist blog, but stick with me. If you hate it, I shall never write anything else like it again. Honest.

After revealing the History Matters’ blogging project here yesterday (it’s Tuesday, link is onsunday's post, don’t forget), I stumbled across the Mass Observation Archive whilst scanning some newsletters on archives as part of my council job this morning. This was a bit of a trip down memory lane, as the first time I heard of the MOA was when I was studying for my degree as an undergraduate.

The Mass Observation Archive was in operation from 1937 until the early 1950’s and was founded by three young men, anthropologist Tom Harrisson, poet Charles Madge and film-maker Humphrey Jennings. Their work was two-fold:

Observational: paid researchers were sent to public situations (meetings, leisure activities or religious events, for example) where “they recorded people’s behaviour and conversation in as much detail as possible” (Mass Observation Archive Website).

National Panel of Diarists: “was composed of people from all over Britain who either kept diaries or replied to regular open-ended questionnaires send to them by the central team of Mass-Observers” (Mass Observation Archive website)

The material can, unfortunately, only be accessed by visiting the Archive itself, but you can get a flavour of the sort of material available by logging onto their website at:

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