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Personal Papers Collections

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This collection consists of material donated to the Archive outside the prescribed Diaries and Directive responses, which make up the bulk of the Archive. There are 160 of these small holdings and they contribute significantly to the Mass Observation resource.

Many of the people who have donated personal papers over the years have at some stage been Mass Observation volunteers. There are also collections donated by people who have had no previous association with Mass Observation, but have found the Archive to be a good place for their papers to be made available for future researchers and generations.

In 2003 the Director of the Mass Observation Archive, Dorothy Sheridan, put together a Collections Policy and a document on donating personal papers. Copies of these documents can be found in this folder. These documents are sent out to potential donators who are asked to respond, in writing, to the question on pages 2 and 3 on the ‘Guidance on donating personal papers’ document before bestowing their collection to the Archive.

The collections consists mainly of diaries and letters, but also of autobiographical writings and printed materials, such as, ration books, certificates and awards, leaflets and ephemera, and account books. Most of the material starts from the 1930s onwards, but there are also earlier papers, photographs, and memoirs.

While some of the collections are small enough to only hold one short autobiographical text, others fill many boxes and span the author’s whole lifetime. To be able to dive in and read extracts of someone’s everyday life during the World War II or to encounter someone’s first experiences of adolescent love through their own contemporary writing is a great source of inspiration and a resource that we hope researchers will make use of.

This folder holds short summaries of most of the collections, with brief biographical context where available and a list of keywords and description of the holdings. There is also an index which lists the collections according to keywords, either relating to the format of the collection, i.e. “Letters,” “Diaries” or through subject matter such as “School experiences” or “1960s”. There is also an index over geographical locations.

The collections are listed and archived by surname, except in cases where anonymity has been requested. It is the responsibility of the researcher to adhere to the guidelines around copyright and confidentiality and any requests for reproducing or quoting from the materials in these collections should be directed to the Archive.

Note on listings

The collections have been indexed by decade or writing, geographical location and keywords.

A small amount of information on each collection is avaiable via its link under each search whilst further detailed information on each collection is available by contacting .

Index by decade: please note that some writers will appear under several decades

Index by subject area: relates to subject matter covered within the collection. This is not a complete indexing and other subjects may also be covered.

Index by geographical area: relates to residence of diary writer and any other locations they may write about (e.g. holiday diaries etc).

Collections listed by Johanna Samuelson July 2008


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