A click up the Eighties: Archive’s digital project opens up our recent past to a wider audience
The words and voices of ordinary people commenting on the extraordinary events of the 1980s as they lived through them in Britain will form the basis of an exciting new online teaching resource created by the University of Sussex.
‘Observing the 1980s’, which will feature first-hand accounts of life in Thatcher’s Britain, has been funded by an award of just under £100k from JISC , the digital technology advisers to the education sector.
The aim of the project is to select and digitise materials from the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex and place them online as an Open Educational Resource (OER) for use by a wider group of university students, school pupils and researchers to support their history studies.
The project will be complemented and enhanced by oral history recordings from the British Library’s sound archive collection. The recordings will comprise s given by members of the public on a variety of themes associated with the 1980s.
Jane Harvell, Project Lead and Head of Academic Services in the Library at the University of Sussex says: “This project is an exciting new development for the Archive and for Sussex. It effectively opens up the more recent Mass Observation collections for teaching purposes but of course people will still be able to book an appointment and come to the Library to look at the actual documents if they wish to.”
Users will be able to read online a selection of 1980s materials from Mass Observation which will include first-hand accounts of everyday life.
Selection and digitisation of the Mass Observation material will be overseen by project manager and University doctoral researcher Jill Kirby and Mass Observation trustee Dorothy Sheridan, with support from historian Lucy Robinson, current students and the University’s IT services E-learning developer Stuart Lamour.
Rob Perks, Lead Curator of Oral History at the British Library, said: “This new resource will bring together different kinds of personal memory and reflection about a decade that defined a key shift in British society. The 1980s saw the highest levels of unemployment since the 1930s, tumultuous public protest and conflict between the State and labour, and what was arguably the last ‘imperial’ war.”
University of Sussex Senior Archive Assistant Jessica Scantlebury says: “The 1980s was about more than just shoulder pads and giant mobile phones. Access to these Archive materials online will show new generations just how influential a decade it was on the way we live now.”
Subjects covered will include the Falkland’s War, Thatcher’s Britain, AIDS, Charles and Diana’s wedding, the miners’ strike, terrorism, unemployment, immigration. The online collection of printed and written materials will include period ephemera such as public information leaflets, pamphlets, posters and tickets.
Paola Marchionni, programme manager at JISC, says: “JISC has funded this project in recognition of the value of people’s stories in documenting historyand how such content can enrich the teaching and learning of recent history. Observing the 1980s is a truly collaborative effort that brings together different departments and expertise within the University of Sussex along with external partners, in the delivery of innovative open educational resources.”
The Mass Observation Archive – a collection of diaries and observations commissioned from volunteer writers about life in Britain from the 1930s-50s and from the 1980s onwards – is already used as an illuminating source by University of Sussex historian Lucy Robinson for her teaching on the 1980s. Her degree courses will benefit from and serve as a framework for the development of the digitisation project as it progresses.