Mass Observation Online is a digital collection of unpublished reports on everyday life and culture assembled in Britain from 1937 to 1972. The collection was digitized from selected portions of the archives of Mass Observation, the organization that originally produced these materials, with some updates.
Sources for this review include information publicly posted or obtained directly from the publisher, data collected by staff at CRL and its member institutions, and examination of the digital collection when possible. Other sources are noted where cited.
Originating from the diverse perspectives of an anthropologist, a poet, and a filmmaker, the Mass Observation project proceeded to ambitiously expand its documentation of British society, particularly during its most active period of 1937–55. The University of Sussex opened an archive of the files in 1975. Adam Matthew began microfilming portions of the archive in twelve parts in 1994.
The digital archive and its initial update includes indexed diaries, surveys, studies, full-text reports, interactive maps, and photographs from the period. More than three thousand previously unpublished pages of materials are included. The bulk of the digital archive, however, consists of finding aids to the rest of the source materials.
The collection contains two main forms of scanned documents. One is the empirical data and personal writings collected by the Mass Observation organization, the Topic Collections, and the Day Surveys. Highlights include a collection from 1939 to 1942 of approximately five hundred indexed diaries and surveys centered on a specific theme, such as dancing, shopping, and television. The second form is made up of File Reports and Publications: published and unpublished reports written on the basis of these primary sources, as well as 25 out-of-print books written by the Mass Observation organization. The digital archive also includes bibliographic summaries of data and documents from topic collections focused on dreams, radio listening, and reading habits spanning the period from 1937 to 1950. The publisher reports that the only overlap between the microfilm and the online version consists of the 6,000 pages of published documents, out of 234,000 total scanned pages of material.
Mass Observation Online is a valuable resource for cultural research in history, anthropology, sociology, literature, and gender studies, and not just specific to British society. The collection would be especially helpful for undergraduates because it includes contextual essays describing the significance of the materials and two essays written by graduate students recounting their experiences with the archive. A CRL member noted, “Its appeal is not restricted to historians of the United Kingdom. The aim of the Mass Observation Project was to examine how modern citizens engaged in their world, the UK being merely the empirical site of the investigation.”
In addition to database metadata with subject indexing, MARC records are provided, similar to other Adam Matthew products.
Technical platform & interface
The design of the collection’s interface is attractive and easy to use. The main page includes links to contextual information, a search engine and help in using the collection. Other pages display their contents on manila folders with large icons. The search engine gathers results across materials available in full text online and from finding aids for the microform or unpublished series. The chronology, bibliography, interactive maps and external links build a basic context for researchers around the materials collected in the archive.
Adam Matthew is currently offering the initial digital archive and the first update. They expect that there will be two additional updates in 2011 and 2013, to be separately priced.
A general draft version of the Adam Matthew “Standard License Agreement” for Mass Observation can be downloaded for information purposes from http://www.amedu.com/Collections/Mass-Observation-Online.aspx (click the downloads tab and select Standard License Agreement).
Following the acquisition of Adam Matthew Digital and Adam Matthew Education by SAGE in early October, 2012, Adam Matthew issued a statement indicating that all existing contracts will remain between Adam Matthew and its partners, not transferred to SAGE. They have also posted details clarifying the status of licensing arrangements for the retention of digital materials and ongoing access to collections. Questions regarding Adam Matthew products, including licensing questions, will continue to be directed to the Adam Matthew team.
Direct from Publisher
|Subjects covered||Sociology, history|
|Content types||Manuscripts, correspondence, reports|
|Source formats||Digital scan of original items|
|P||Digital collection launch date||February 2007|
|P||Browser compatibility||IE7+, Firefox, Safari|
|P||Authentication options||IP (username and password for trials)|
|P||Archiving solution – master files||Portico|
|P||Archiving solution – derivative files||Available on hard drive upon request|
|P||Availability in web discovery tools||Y (MetaLib)|
|P||Open URL target||N|
|P||Federated searching, z39.50||N|
|P||Local host option||Y|
|P||Full text displayed||Y|
|P||Color images||N (100%). Update II (Pub May 2011 = 100% color)|
|P||Search full text||Y|
|P||Advanced search (fielded)||Y|
|P||Search within results||N|
|P||Limit results by dates and/or document types||Y|
|P||Display highlighted search terms||Y|
|P||Display snippet -- search term in context||N|
|P||Relevance sorting||Y by default|
|P||Print page||Y via PDF|
|P||Print full document||Y via PDF|
|P||ILL||See Point II of license agreement for fair use provision|
|P||Restrictions on use||Academic/Fair use only|
|Publisher / Distributor||Adam Matthew Education|
|Related product(s)||Mass Observation Update II (May 2011)|
|Subscription option||Y (Annual access available. Please contact publisher to discuss.)|
|Multiple year payments option||Y (Please contact publisher to discuss.)|
|Hosting charges||Y (5% of purchase price every five years [first five year period free])|
|List of purchasers available||N|
|Sample license available||Y (http://www.amedu.com/Collections/Mass-Observation-Online.aspx click on the ‘downloads’ tab and select ‘Standard License Agreement)|
|MARC records purchase fee||N|
|Price tier basis||N/A|