Mass Observation Online (Trial)

This trial will end on 19 December 2011

Mass Observation online : British social history, 1937-1972, from the University of Sussex offers revolutionary access to one of the most important archives for the study of Social History in the modern era. 

This online archive contains original manuscript and typescript papers created and collected by the Mass Observation organisation, together with printed publications, photographs and interactive maps.  The social research organisation, Mass Observation, was founded in 1937 by anthropologist Tom Harrisson, film-maker Humphrey Jennings and poet Charles Madge.  Their aim was to create an ‘anthropology of ourselves’, and by recruiting a team of observers and a panel of volunteer writers, they studied the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain.  This resource covers the original Mass Observation project, the bulk of which was carried from 1937 until the mid 1950s.

The project opens up revolutionary access to the archive and offers:

  • A complete set of the File Reports, 1937-1972, with full text searching ability
  • Access to all of the Day Surveys, Directives and Diaries, 1937-1945
  • Topic Collections covering: Famous Persons; Household Budgeting; Juvenile Delinquency; Korea; Peace & the Public; Radio Listening; World Outlook; Film; Reading Habits; Dreams; Religion; Victory Celebrations; Capital Punishment; Posters; Smoking Habits; Drinking Habits; Gambling; and the September 1946 exhibition held at the Victoria & Albert Museum “Britain Can Make It”.
  • The ‘Worktown Collection’
  • Nine contextual essays by leading scholars describing the archive and suggesting research and teaching strategies
  • Photographs by Humphrey Spender, interactive maps, and much valuable supporting material

**Please note:  Download options are not available during this trial.


4 Responses to “Mass Observation Online (Trial)”

  1. Rowena Morrison says:

    This is an important as well as interesting archive. It is reasonably well set out and easy to use. Pity that download options were not available.

  2. Caitlin Stone says:

    I was a bit disappointed in Mass Observation Online. The photographs, for example, are nice to look at but there is so little information available that they are of questionable use a research resource.

  3. Antonina Lewis says:

    To extend on Caitlin’s comment: Citation instructions for the archival records being made available are [not] found via a non-hyperlinked, 404-error-returning, external link, buried under the ‘Teaching’ tab of the Help menu rather than, say, the FAQ. Gah! (To find the document, replace “info” with “download” in the address provided).

    Mass Observation Online is definitely an interesting resource, but… records and context are divorced from each other, archival metadata is absent, and inattention to citation requirements is disturbing.

    Hopefully, the site will evolve over time. I’d like to see it offer functionality to meet the information needs of a broader audience – specifically, the ability to navigate directly (or, at least more readily) between: digital objects; standards based archival description; collection context and associated secondary sources. Much of this information is already being made available, but only in a disjointed fashion.

  4. Brett Holman says:

    It may not be perfect from a librarian’s perspective, but speaking as someone who has used the microfilm version of the Mass-Obs archive for academic research recently, it’s a vast improvement. It’s far easier to navigate and (obviously) search; much more of the archive is available; and the prospect of being able to download PDFs (with transcripts, the quality of which is high) of whole reports is alluring. Certainly beats slogging through microfilms and scanning images to a USB stick! So I hope the University decides to subscribe to this resource.

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