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  • 00:13

    FIONA COURAGE: My name is Fiona Courage.I'm the curator at the Mass ObservationArchive, which is part of the University of Sussex SpecialCollections.We're based here at the Keep, which is an archival resourcecenter which holds the archives of the University of Sussex,of East Sussex Records Office, and Brighton and Hove cities.The archiving process involves taking in the data,be that a diary or a written piece

  • 00:35

    FIONA COURAGE [continued]: of subjective questionnaire or an oral recording,and fitting it into our catalogueso that the researcher will be able to find it.Then we take that data and we preserve it.So if it's a document, we will put it into special boxesand we will put it into a store.If it's a piece of electronic data,

  • 00:57

    FIONA COURAGE [continued]: then we will store it on a hard drive or on a server somewhereand ensure that a researcher wouldbe able to access somehow.The Mass Observation Archive is the archiveof the social research organization, Mass Observation,which was founded in 1937.

  • 01:18

    FIONA COURAGE [continued]: And since 1937 we've been recording everyday lifein Britain.Thinking about how we work with Mass Observation,how we start to collect the data and then how ultimately itbecomes an archive, we start the process off by engaging peoplethat will write for us.We encourage people to be very in depthand very subjective about what they tell us.

  • 01:40

    FIONA COURAGE [continued]: We want them to not simply answer, yes or no,but to sort of write several pages, preferably.

  • 01:46

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY: My name is Jessica Scantlebury.I'm the senior archive assistant for the Mass ObservationArchive, and I spend my time looking after the MassObservation Project panel and also cataloging their responsesand making them available to researchers.We want people in the future to beable to know what every day life in Britainwas like in 2015 so people who are coming at this in 100

  • 02:10

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: years' time will know what daily life waslike for ordinary people.At the moment I'm cataloging some responses to a directivethat we sent to our panel of observers.And the directive is on working families,so we asked them about how they manage their family lifeand working, as well.

  • 02:31

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: And I am doing some cataloguing work with these responsesso that we can make them available in our reading roomsdownstairs.Hello.Do you mind showing me how to use the catalogue, please?Sure.I'll just come around.OK, so this is our catalogue here.And if you do a search in the search bar for Mass ObservationProject, it's this one here, the papers of the Mass Observation

  • 02:54

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: Project.So if you click on that and then thisis a description of what's in the archive.But if you press Browse by Hierarchyand then expand out using the pluses,you can see a list of all the directivesthat we've issued since 181.And if you expand out you can see the actual themes

  • 03:16

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: that were asked.So this one's on serial killers, the countryside,and what makes you happy.Thank you.OK.So OK?Yes, thank you very much.Great.Once the material comes in, we remove any staples or sellotapeor any plastic wallets that might harm the material.We put it in these boxes here and these files,

  • 03:39

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: which are all acid free so they won't do any damageto the paper.We then catalog it so that we've got a good record of whatwe have here.The archive catalogue system that we use hereis called CALM.It's kind of the industry starting.Everything that we create on our cataloguing system

  • 03:59

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: is given a unique reference numberwhich we use to create a hierarchy of the cataloguebut also to give researchers this referencenumber so they can find material in the archive.We're receiving material every single day.It comes in at different times, whereas for other archiveslots of material that they have will come in one batch.

  • 04:22

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: Ours comes from all sorts of different depositorsfrom all across the country and also at different timesand it's continuously growing.So that presents its own challenges.So once documents have been catalogued in the waythat we've seen, we then bring them up into the storesand we place them onto the shelves.

  • 04:42

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: We place them on the shelves you can see around usand we note where they are because thereare 10 miles worth of shelving in this buildingand we don't want to lose.Anything.They're kept here, in really good storage condition,until a researcher wants to use them.In terms of sort of the evolution of archival methods,or methods of archiving, shall we say,

  • 05:03

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: then this is a very traditional way of doing it.But obviously, with technology increasingwe no longer have to simply find storage conditions for paper,but we also have to understand how we can deal with databases,how we can ensure that computer bytes are kept--the integrity of computer bytes databases are kept,or indeed, how oral recordings, sound recordings,

  • 05:24

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: are kept intact so that they'll still be audible in many yearsto come.The traditional ways of archiving, I think,are still very integral to the nature of archiving.The way that you will treat a document, a paper document,will be exactly the same structureif they're presenting it to you on a server.We still all live the same kinds of lives

  • 05:46

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: and so we have to find a method of replicating that digitallyto replicate what we do in hard copy,but the hard copy will still go on existing.

  • 05:60

    FIONA COURAGE: I think in terms of how we collect data,we're increasingly going to be lookingat using social media, at using new digital formats,and trying to work with different audiences.So traditionally, we've asked peopleto write down, to make them keep diaries and so forth.And actually what we're finding is young peoplewant to engage by using videos or photographing

  • 06:23

    FIONA COURAGE [continued]: or audio recordings.

  • 06:24

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY: The new methodsthat we've been using have been to capture more movingimages and more video responses, more diaries writtenon Twitter, and also in blogging formats.More of observers are now emailing in their responses.

  • 06:45

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: We use social media to support mass observationto communicate with our researchersand also to communicate with the mass observationwriters themselves.We have a very active Twitter accountof around 7,000 followers.We use this to remind people that we've justsent out a directive and also that a directive isready for research and that they can use it and come to the Keep

  • 07:08

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: to look at it.Sometimes we might ask people to record their day in 140characters, I think Twitter is, and that'sbeen a very useful method for us so wecan see how people respond differentlywhen they're writing their directive replies,

  • 07:28

    JESSICA SCANTLEBURY [continued]: but also when they're communicating on social media.We also have very active email discussion list and a Pinterestgroup, as well, which is very useful for pinning documentsso that you can look at examples from the archive itself.

  • 07:48

    FIONA COURAGE: Increasingly, we'rebeing asked to make the data that we collect availablefor a much wider audience.So we've been looking at ways that peoplecan access it either electronically or actuallyphysically taking it out through talks, lectures, schoollessons, exhibitions, and that sort of thing,

  • 08:09

    FIONA COURAGE [continued]: so presenting the data in a way that'skind of always bit-sized chunks that people can understand.In the academic world I think we're alsoseeing sort of revolutions of the presentation of datain that increasingly people are expecting it to be availableonline.But that in itself has creating new challenges,such as how we replicate the curatorial voice

  • 08:31

    FIONA COURAGE [continued]: of mass observation so it's not simplya series of electronic documents,but people have the context and the understanding of whythat data was collected, why that data wasimportant to the people who gave it to the first placeAn awful lot of my role encompassesadvocacy and advocating the usefulness, the beauty,

  • 08:57

    FIONA COURAGE [continued]: the value of these materials, this documents,these rare books that we hold.Also, we really need to be able to get involved in teaching,in learning, understanding how people use archivesin teaching research skills.So very sort of outgoing.But other aspects of the professionwill involve maybe sitting there with an uncatalogued archive

  • 09:20

    FIONA COURAGE [continued]: belonging to a poet or an artist and somehowplacing an order into this that will allow a researcherto access it but also allow a researcherto understand that person's life or that institution's reasonfor being or objectives whilst retaining the integrity of it.

  • 09:42

    FIONA COURAGE [continued]: If somebody is interested in getting into this kind of work,the best thing to do is go and make friendswith your local university or local recordsarchivist or your local museum and try and getsome voluntary experience, actually understandthe kind of work that goes on.And if that's something that you're interested in,then I would also encourage people to use archives,

  • 10:04

    FIONA COURAGE [continued]: to actually do some research.Go in there and get excited that excitedbut, understand why people want to use it.And I think it through developing that passion for itthat that's what encourages successin working in this field.It's about being able to make these thingsfavorable for people to use and preserve themfor future generations.

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Publication Year: 2017

Video Type:In Practice

Methods: Data archives

Keywords: accessibility; advocacy; audiences; cataloging; context communication; digital asset management; family life; online information handling; preservation; teaching ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Fiona Courage and Jessica Scantlebury describe their work with the Mass Observation Archive. They send out directives and collect the observations of ordinary people, as well as preserving and cataloging materials. They also explain how best to start a career in archives.

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Data Archiving: Mass Observation Archive

Fiona Courage and Jessica Scantlebury describe their work with the Mass Observation Archive. They send out directives and collect the observations of ordinary people, as well as preserving and cataloging materials. They also explain how best to start a career in archives.

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