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Beyond Boxes

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £51,300, Beyond Boxes collaborated with three project partners, Blind Veterans UK, the Brighton Housing Trust and HMP Lewes to encourage project participants to share their lived experience, so that the MOA better reflects the diversity of life in Britain today. In doing this, Beyond Boxes also aimed to break down some of the barriers, which prevent people from engaging with archives.

Participants have donated diaries, personal writings, poems, oral recordings, directive responses, drawings and embroideries. This material has been formed as the Beyond Boxes Collection and is held at the MOA when it can be appreciated by visitors to the Keep.

The delivery of the project covered a variety of areas in relation to archives. Below are just some of the highlights.

International Day of Disabled People Diary Day

As part of the effort to make the content of the archive more representative, a new diary day was held on 3 December 2016 and 2017 to mark the United Nations International Day of Disabled People. Over 30 responses were received reflecting individual records of that day. In order to make participation in the diary day as accessible as possible, respondents were invited to record their day in several different formats, and some residents from Royal National Institute for the Blind at Wavertree House chose to document their day orally. These responses will be  scribed and make available, with other project material, in September 2017. 

May 12th Diary Day

As part of Beyond Boxes, project participants were invited to take part in Mass Observation's annual diary day on the 12th May. The Beyond Boxes team visited Lewes Prison and Brighton Housing Trust to facilitate sessions which allowed participants to record accounts of their day in various formats. Repsonses came in the form of written accounts and oral recordings, and will be made available to the public shortly.

MOP Winter Directive 2016: Homelessness

The first of a series of Mass Observation Project directives to be issued as part of Beyond Boxes was designed in consultatation with clients of the Brighton Housing Trust. They actively helped to form the questions included in the directive and provided assistnat and advice on addressing such an important topic. Directive replies, including oral recordings with project participants from First Base Day Centre will be made available in September 2017.  

MOP Winter Directive 2017: Prison 

Through MO’s partnership with HMP Lewes and the work of the writing group at the prison library were able to commission a directive on the topic of ‘prison.’ Over the course of a series of workshops at the prison library the Beyond Boxes team and the creative writing group worked together to design the directive which included writing up questions, suggesting topics of interest and offering advice on how best to approach such a large topic. The input form the group has been invaluable to Beyond Boxes and the MOP.

MOP Spring Directive 2018: Disability

The third MOP directive commissioned by Beyond Boxes was on the topic of ‘Disability.’ In designing this directive, the Beyond Boxes team consulted with project participants from Blind Veterans UK. This included exploring relevant themes and questions, particular around the questions in the directive about visual impairments.

All of the directives commissioned by Beyond Boxes were sent to the MOP panel and to all participants of the project. The responses from the panel can be found on the main MOP catalogue. Replies from project participants can be accessed via the Beyond Boxes Collection catalogue reference.

Beyond Boxes Buddy Scheme

During summer 2017 the project launched the Beyond Boxes Buddy scheme. As part of the scheme volunteers have been recruited to provide 1-1 support to people visiting the Keep. Public service at the Keep includes a reference and reading room with facilities such as public network computers, an online catalogue, reference books, online resources and access to original archives. We recognise that a visit to the archives can be a little overwhelming for a new visitor and project activity so far has suggested that providing 1-1 support would be of benefit to some people using our service.

The fully trained Beyond Boxes Buddy volunteers provide additional 1-1 support, to ensure that The Keep is more accessible and responsive to the individual needs of our users. The Keep has friendly and welcoming staff, who are able to provide expert advice and guidance.

If you would like a Buddy, please ask at Reception or in the Reference Room and staff will be able to let you know if one is available.

Access to Archives  

In our drive to make archives more accessible, the Keep has Prodigi Scanners available in the Reference and Reading rooms, purchased with the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and FOTKA (Friends of the Keep Archive). Through Beyond Boxes the Keep has also installed Dolphin Supernova software on 10 public network computers with accessible keyboards and headphones. On your visit, please ask a member of Keep staff or a Buddy volunteer if you would like to use these machines, which are able to enhance access to documents in different ways.

Project Resources

As part of the project we developed a number of resources that you can download in PDF. The copyright of all resources is held by the Mass Observation Archive but can be downloaded and used under a creative commons (CC) license and should not be used for commercial purposes.

Beyond Boxes Book of Basics

This book was inspired by the project’s writing group at HMP Lewes and provides a basic introduction to English grammar as well as practical exercises.

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Beyond Boxes Exercise Book

This small book contains a number of writing exercises inspired by Mass Observation and encourage people to write diaries, poetry and life writing.

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Beyond Boxes Writing Prompt Cards

This set of cards can contain writing prompts and quotes from project participants at HMP Lewes. There are 52 in total and can be used a source of inspiration for writing creatively.

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Beyond Boxes Project Guide

The guide was developed to help provide support to others who are considering delivering a project like Beyond Boxes. It provides a background to the project and focuses on the areas of access, outreach and engagement, and volunteers. (The guide will be made available to the public during September 2018).

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