Using original MO material
One of the largest challenges facing a project like MOCO can be getting people to recognise the relevance and importance of recording their own experience. Getting poeple to see that their work sits in a historical continuum, that their diary or photo builds on the well-established traditions of Mass Observation, can be a very effective way of changing their minds.
Visiting the MO Archive
As part of the MOCO project, we held a series of workshops in the Mass Observation Archive, during which community group representatives had the opportunity to handle original MO diaries, directives, ephemera and photos. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the historical material and the exercise proved to be an extremely effective way of capturing people's imaginations and engaging them in the historical relevance of the MOCO project. The simple act of leafing through a 1930s menu or reading a war-time diary caused people to re-think their perceptions of every day 'normal' life and the value of their own experience.
If you're thinking of encouraging your group to write personal accounts or take photos, why not visit the Mass Observation Archive? Looking at MO material could prove a useful way of contextualizing your own activities/project within a wider Life History framework. The archive is open to the public and viewing appoinments can be made for small groups. To arrange a visit, please contact MOA.
Using MO material remotely
If you are unable to visit the archive, there's no reason why you shouldn't still use MO material to inspire your group members. A selection of digitised original MO material is available on both the MO website and the MOCO website and could be used by your group in a variety of ways.
Depending on your group, it might be helpful to hold a meeting where you introduce the group to Mass Observation, and the material stored in the archive. Possible activities might include:
- Providing copies of diaries and photos for group members to read- this will also enable them to see individuals' handwriting.
- Reading extracts aloud to the group- hearing a historical piece read aloud can be quite evocative and might engage different people.