The Mass Observation Archive (MOA), which records the lives of ordinary people, is working in partnership with Blind Veterans UK, the Brighton Housing Trust and Lewes Prison to open up access to the collection.
The two-year Beyond Boxes project began in September 2016 and is supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £51,300. The project aims to break down the barriers many people face in trying to use archives, be these physical, attitudinal or educational, to ensure that heritage is open to all.
The Project So Far
Since the project began in September 2016, groups from Brighton Housing Trust and Blind Veterans UK have visited The Keep, had tours of the facilities and explored material from the Mass Observation Archive. The visits highlighted a number of barriers that people may face when trying to access archives. As a result of feedback received from the groups, provisions have been made to allow people without identification to become Keep users, and East Sussex County Council have agreed to install software in The Keep to make computers more accessible to people with visual impairments.
December 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 to mark the International Day of People with Disabilities. Over 30 responses were received, all of which have been catalogued for use by the public at The Keep. 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 RNIB Wavertree House chose to document their day orally. These responses were scribed, and are now held in the archive.
Along with an additional diary day, the first of a series of Mass Observation directives to be issued as part of the Beyond Boxes project was sent out to the panel of observers in winter 2016. Users of Brighton Housing Trust actively helped to form the questions included in the directive, which was based on the subject of homelessness. The directive has been answered by over 100 people, and responses are now open to the public at The Keep. Users of Brighton Housing Trust also provided their own responses to the directive, including written accounts and oral history interviews which were facilitated by a session at The Keep.
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.
The project will run until September 2018, and include a number of events, workshops and activities. Groups from the project partners have been consulted regarding what they hope to get from the project, and the programme of events is being developed accordingly. All participants of the Beyond Boxes project will also be invited to take part in the 12th May diary day, with workshops and sessions available for those wishing to record their experiences in alternative formats. Two further directives focusing on life in prison and disability are scheduled for 2017. Input from members of Blind Veterans UK and men from Lewes Prison will shape these directives. The material collected through Beyond Boxes will be used in a touring exhibition towards the end of the project. The exhibition will be stationed at the facilities of each of the project partners as well as The Keep, in order to give participants an opportunity to discuss and showcase their work as part of the project.
This webpage will be updated as the project progresses.