Mass Observation 80th anniversary – video

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05 May 2017
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The Mass Observation Project is 80 years old this year. Find out what happens when a diary arrives at the archives, with our video report.

The Mass Observation Project is 80 years old this year. Find out what happens when a diary arrives at the archives, with our video report.

What is the Mass Observation Project?

The first Mass Observation, which was the work of a social research organisation, began on 12 May 1937, the coronation day of King George VI, when members of the public were invited to keep a diary of how they spent this day, and then send it in to the project organisers, to be kept for posterity.

The organisation continued its work until the late 1960s, and its work was revived in 1981, with the launch of the Mass Observation Project, which is now housed at The Keep in The University of Sussex.

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Since 1981, the Mass Observation Project has been recording everyday life in Britain, as diarists submit their diaries to the project on 12 May each year, to be kept in the Mass Observation Archive. Additionally, hundreds of volunteer writers (known as observers) answer open questionnaires issued by the project, which are also preserved. Find out more about becoming an observer at the project website.

Watch what happens to a diary when it’s received at The Keep

How to get involved

The Mass Observation Archive is once again inviting people to send in their diary about how they spent 12 May 2017, then e-mail this diary to The Keep, who care for the Mass Observation Project diaries. These diaries will be kept for future researchers to use; more than 1,100 diaries were received for 12 May 2016.

Diarists are invited to write about what they did, where they went, who they met, how they spent their work and leisure time, and their thoughts about life in the UK on 12 May 2017. To submit your one-day diary, visit the project website. You can also tweet your day using #12May17