New Diary Day marks International Day of People with Disabilities
23 November 2016
By Anthony McCoubrey
As part of International Day of People with Disabilities, the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex is inviting people to get involved and keep a day diary on Saturday 3rd December 2016.
The Mass Observation Archive has been recording everyday life in Britain since 1937 and we have collected material relating to a variety of topics and people’s experiences. We continue to do this today through our panel of writers and our May 12th Diary Day, when members of the public can contribute their day diary to the archive.
This year, we are holding an additional Diary day on 3rd December as part of our Beyond Boxes project. Funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, this two-year access and engagement project is working to address barriers, whether they be attitudinal, educational, social or physical, that people may experience when trying to access archive collections.
We would like to encourage people to record their day on 3rd December and send it to the Mass Observation Archive, which is housed at The Keep in Falmer, where it will be kept and used by researchers, students and members of the public. All diary entries are anonymised so the diarist’s identity will not be made public, nor will any of their personal details.
By working in partnership with different groups and getting the wider public engaged we hope to ensure that our archive includes and celebrates the diversity of people’s lives and experiences in 21st century Britain.
Please do get in touch if you would like to get involved with the Beyond Boxes project. To record your diary for the Mass Observation Archive on 3rd December 2016, please look at our website for further information, templates and advice on completing and submitting your diary.
Meet the Staff: Suzanne Rose, Education and Outreach Officer for Mass Observation
23 September 2016
‘Sometimes young people walk into The Keep without any idea of what an archive is. ‘Is it a castle?’ ‘Is it a crypt?’ That’s where my job begins!
‘Tapping into an archive informs and enhances the lives of individuals and communities. My role is to make the Mass Observation (MO) archive as accessible as possible, introducing it to schools, students and community groups. The MO archive itself is only one of scores of collections which are stored on the shelves behind the scenes at The Keep; it’s basically a huge collection of the diaries, opinions and experiences of ordinary people that were written during the Second World War, and continues to the present day. Most archives are finite collections – they are consulted and put back on the shelves – but we often ask people working with MO to feed back their own responses and experiences so it grows as a historical resource for future generations.
‘As soon as I started here I applied for funding for a project called ‘Mass Education’ and was fortunate to get a two-year grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Over 2013-2015 we worked with hundreds of kids, using the MO archive to deliver learning sessions. We went into schools and the children came to The Keep. These sessions were geared towards history (the Second World War), literacy (keeping diaries), and research and study skills (observing and recording). Our learning sessions are available to schools visiting The Keep and more information and learning resources can be found on the MOA website.
‘Partnering with local organisations is really important in my work. MO is currently a heritage partner in a joint project with Photoworks called Into the Outside. Young people taking part in the project invited their contemporaries at Brighton Pride weekend to share their experiences of LGBTQ+ life. This worked positively for all those involved; it informed their sense of community, it gave their lives and lifestyle choices recognition and their work will form part of a new Queer Youth archive at The Keep. The photography from the project will be exhibited as part of the Brighton Photo Biennial in October. We also partnered with The Nimbus Group on a project called ‘Giddy Brighton‘, where young people from Longhill School interviewed older residents of Brighton on what it was like being a teenager in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. They went on to develop a location-based app which can be used by anyone walking through Brighton – you can just stop and listen to the memories associated with that particular place. It’s wonderful.
‘Our latest project called ‘Beyond Boxes’ is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It will enable us to reach out to diverse, perhaps more marginalised community groups, who might find accessing the archive more difficult. We are working with Blind Veterans UK and Brighton Housing Trust to offer sessions at The Keep and outreach sessions in the wider community. We’ll also be delivering sessions in Lewes Prison, where we hope material from the archive will inspire prisoners’ creative writing and develop literacy skills.
‘This is a part-time job so you can understand that it’s never done! And the teaching bits can be quite challenging. I worked with 150 Year 8 children during one day just before the summer holidays – that was memorable! But the reward is seeing people access this public service, who wouldn’t normally find it easy. And the great thing is, once people have visited in a group, they can come back on their own, knowing that The Keep offers a friendly welcome and a chance to explore the archives.’
Interview by Lindsey Tydeman
Introducing ‘Beyond Boxes’, a new Mass Observation Archive project
13 September 2016
By Anthony McCoubrey
The Mass Observation Archive (MOA) is working in partnership with Blind Veterans UK, the Brighton Housing Trust and Lewes Prison to open up access to archive collections.
The two-year Beyond Boxes project, which launched last week, is supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project aims to break down the barriers many people face in trying to use archives, be these physical, attitudinal or educational, to ensure that heritage is open and accessible to all.
Beyond Boxes will include a range of activities and events, such as a diary day in December for International Day of Disabled People, along with a programme of outreach and in-house workshops at The Keep. The project will enable participants to explore, debate and learn about daily life in Britain and make contributions to the Mass Observation Archive that reflect their own lives and experiences of life in 21st century Britain.
Anthony McCoubrey, Beyond Boxes Project Coordinator, said: ‘Heritage comes in many social and cultural forms; from historic buildings, to the natural world, to individual possessions.
‘But it is also tradition passed down through personal stories, experiences, or writings. Everyone should have the opportunity to contribute their personal heritage so that it is recorded, represented and made available to a wider audience through the Mass Observation Archive.”
Katherine Bradley, Members Activities Manager at Blind Veterans UK, said: “Blind Veterans UK is excited to be part of this project. It is wonderful that the experiences of the veterans the charity supports will be recorded and available as part of this project, as well as that all records will be accessible for those with a vision-impairment.”
Sara Peskett, at Brighton Housing Trust, said: ‘People who are street homeless face multiple barriers to accessing and engaging with heritage in Brighton and Hove. Despite forming a significant part of the community within the city, the heritage of people who are rough sleeping and their thoughts, experiences and memories are underrepresented. Beyond Boxes is a fantastic initiative providing many opportunities for clients of BHT to engage with and actively contribute to the historical archives.”
Emma Bach, Librarian at Lewes Prison, said: ‘Beyond Boxes will help to remove barriers to our archives and capture voices outside of the mainstream. It can also offer prisoners opportunities to identify where they ‘are’ now, inspire goals for change and hopes for a different future – vital steps in the process of rehabilitation.’
For further information about the project, please get in touch by contacting The Keep on 01273 482349, or contact the Mass Observation Archive at email@example.com. And you can keep updated about the project in the Keep’s blog space.