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Personal Papers

In addition to the original Mass Observation papers, the Archive also holds other collections which relate closely to the historical period and themes of Mass Observation. Many of these are personal papers: diaries, letters, scrapbooks and albums of various kinds. They are typically written by individuals who were recording their thoughts and activities for themselves, family and friends. The historical and social value of these documents means that they have been donated to the Mass Observation Archive to be used for research and stored for posterity.

Accessing the Personal Papers 

The Personal Papers collection can be consulted at The Keep. The catalogue for the personal paper collection can viewed on The Keep website.

Collections policy

View the Mass Observation Archive Collections Policy.   

Examples from the collection

This collection contains a series of love letters written during the Second World War between Chris Baker, a solider in North Africa, and Bessie Moore, a Morse code interpreter at the Foreign Office in London. These letters have been edited by Simon Garfield and published as My Dear Bessie (Cannongate, 2015). Benedict Cumberbatch and Louise Brealey read from these letters for Letters Live in 2015.

43 personal diaries written by Stella Circket between 1964 and 2004. Circket was born in 1929, the eldest of six siblings. Her diaries chronicle her life starting from her graduation from Bristol University, where she studied English Literature. Circket was a practicing artist and had a strong interest in creative writing and poetry. Her diaries detail her struggle with depression and experiences of psychotherapy treatment.

After the War, Helen Moss responded to an appeal for food parcels for the disposed of Europe. In 1948 she received a letter from a German woman (Ilse Funkerdorf) living in the French zone of Germany and in hospital with TB. The two women formed a close friendship through their correspondence and the letters reveal what everyday life was like for those living in Germany and the UK in the post war years.