Patron of the Mass Observation Archive, Lord Asa Briggs, passed away in March this year. The eminent historian and academic was the University of Sussex’s Vice-Chancellor (1967–76). As Vice-Chancellor, Lord Briggs offered a home to the Mass Observation collection. Dorothy Sheridan, who worked as the Mass Observation archivist, has written some words about Lord Briggs and his relationship with the Archive.
I was an undergraduate during Asa's time as VC at Sussex, and indeed I chose to come to study at the University because my friends and advisers in Yorkshire (who had known him when he was at Leeds) spoke so highly of him. It is, however, his extraordinarily prescient role in bringing the Mass Observation Archive to Sussex that most endears him to me. He was instrumental in building all of Sussex's special collections (including the Woolf archives and the Kipling archive) when the University was still very young. This has ensured that Sussex will always be a key destination for nineteenth and twentieth century literary scholars. Offering a home to the Mass Observation papers, and their irascible co-creator, Tom Harrisson, was inspired. This was Asa's gift to the social historians among us - a collection of materials about contemporary everyday life in the UK, much of autobiographical, all of it original. At that time, in the late 1960s, no one else was interested in the MO collection so without Asa's interest and support, the papers could easily have been lost. Soon after I arrived to work with Tom Harrisson at the Archive in 1974, it was established as a charitable trust and Asa became a leading Trustee. He remained concerned with the fortunes of the Archive ever after and was so pleased, I know, to see it flourish and develop over the years.
Dorothy Sheridan (Trustee of the Mass Observation Archive and former Head of Special Collections)