Contemporary observations

September 16, 2010

I am always pleased to see evidence of Mass Observation's (MO) enduring appeal, not only as a historical resource, but also as an inspiration for new research ("Researchers aim to capture a day in the teaching life", 9 September). However, I would like to correct the implication in your article that MO's work is all in the past.

It is true that the first day diaries were solicited by MO in 1937, and that the extensive diary collection covers the period of the Second World War. What your readers may not realise is that this work continues today.

We relaunched MO from the archive at the University of Sussex in 1981. Since then, a new archive has been created with texts that are handwritten, typed and electronic. These take the form of essays, reports, day diaries, letters, lists, detailed questionnaire replies and visual material sent in by people from all over the UK as a record of their everyday lives.

More than 4,000 people have taken part in this "new" MO and the accumulated record is now more extensive than the original archive. Almost all of it is open for research access under the same conditions as the original collection. Some of this material has been generated in collaboration with academics who have commissioned us to collect on themes; some of it is written by teachers and researchers themselves - since there is no reason why an academic cannot also be a Mass Observer, and a few of them are.

Dorothy Sheridan, Director, Mass Observation Project University of Sussex.

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