In recent weeks, Ian Waldock and Jason Sadler (both based at Geodata at the University of Southampton) from the project team have started work on the Defining Mass Observation Project database and we now have a website to test.
The database brings together biographical data submitted by the Mass Observation writers upon joining the MO Project with their individual writing record. Using this database, researchers will be able to sample writers based on biographical characteristics and discover more about the writing behaviours of the Mass Observation Project Panel members.
The data in this database has been collected by the Mass Observation Archive and processed by a team of volunteers, who have generously given their time to the Defining Mass Observation project. It was gathered from the biographical forms completed by the Mass Observers when they join the Project and from the catalogue records produced by Mass Observation staff as part of the process to archive new material which has been submitted to Mass Observation.
The information in this database has always been available to researchers, but not in such an accessible form. In the past, to find out more about the biographical profile of the writers, researchers were required to visit the Archive to trawl through thousands of non-electronic records; a very time consuming task! Researchers wanting to know about the response rate to each Directive, were encouraged to use The Keep catalogue. This catalogue contains over a million records relating to the thousands of diverse collections that The Keep cares for, so it is easy for a researcher to get lost amongst all of records!
We hope that this database will enable researchers, for the first time, to discover more about the Mass Observation Project and its writers quickly and remotely. We are excited about the opportunities and projects this will open the Mass Observation Project up to.
We are interested in feedback about the website and database and in getting some users to test the new site. We will update the blog once we have moved on to this stage of the project.