Interactive day event with the Mass Observation Archive

We were thrilled with the response to our interactive day event at the Mass Observation Archive ( which was hosted by the archive at The Keep ( in Brighton on Monday 27th October, with 18 people signing up to attend the event.

Discussing writing from different time points.

Discussing writing from different time points.

Participants came from a variety of disciplines and research backgrounds. Some were just starting out in the field of research (it was fantastic  to have 2 undergraduates amongst our attendees); some were working on phds; some were doing personal research; and others were established academic researchers.

Kirsty Pattrick and Jessica Scantlebury, who both work for the Mass Observation Archive (MOA) began the day by providing everyone with some background information on the archive and its writers, and gave a tour of the archive and the conservation lab.

Sarah Bulloch, Rose Lindsey, Liz Metcalfe and John Mohan provided some top tips on using Mass Observation Project (1981-2014) writing in research, generating discussion on:

  • The challenges of using Mass Observation writing in research
  • Using Mass Observation writing longitudinally
  • How to choose what directives to use
  • Methods of sampling and how this applies to sampling individual writers
  • Qualitative methodological approaches to  analysing Mass Observation writing
  • The ethical challenges in using the archive
  • How Mass Observation writing could be used as part of a mixed-method study
  • Some of the challenges involved in undertaking secondary analysis

In the afternoon participants were able to handle and read original scripts from the 1940s on race, and from 1990, 1996 and 2012 on volunteering.  We also provided copies of digitised and transcribed scripts so that those attending could experience the potential different ways of working with the archive.  This hands-on experience – reading through and discussing writing from different time points – allowed people to consider how they might use Mass Observation writing longitudinally.

Reading responses to the Unpaid Work directive

Reading responses to the Unpaid Work directive

We also provided some graphs and tables from a mixed-method study of volunteering, which provided some socio-economic context related to volunteering at particular time points. Although most of the participants identified as qualitative researchers, it was great to see people engaging with and thinking about this material.

We had a brilliant day – it was so good to meet such a variety of people who were all doing really interesting things.  Most people filled out feedback forms to let us know what they thought of the day. Feedback was really good. Although participants came from a range of different backgrounds and had different levels of research experience, everyone went away having learnt something.


Interactive day event: Introducing the Mass Observation Project 1981-2014 as a data source for researchers

We’re really excited by the interest we’ve had in this event.  We only have 6 spaces left for this event – so book now if you are interested!

Go to the University of Southampton online store to book: