The Mass Observation collection is part of the archives at the Keep and it is very different type of record to those I am more familiar with as a genealogist.
Mass Observation started because there were several events of national importance around 1936/7 such as the abdication of Edward VIII which were endlessly discussed by politicians and in the newspapers but the voice of the man in the street was unheard. The idea behind the Mass Observation was to find out what was happening with the everyday folk. It was to some extent a middle class study of the working class but the result is an amazing collection of records, diaries, images and documents that would not have survived if a small group of young men had not decided to undertake an anthropological study of 'ourselves'.
Mass Observation ended in the 1950's as its focus moved more towards consumer behaviour and away from social study but in the 1970s its collection of material came to Sussex University where it was made available to researchers. A lot of books have been published as a result of this information, and even a film - Housewife, 49 - which Victoria Wood wrote and starred in based on the diaries kept for the Mass Observation by Nella Last.
Interest in Mass Observation was revived in the 1981 and there is now a panel of nearly 500 people who are asked to write on a variety of topics. That the information is always provided anonymously is thought to encourage the panel to write truthfully and to give details that they might not normally admit to.
If you would like to add to the archive you get the chance in a few months time - in 1937 everyone was invited to write a diary on the 12th May (which turned out to be the coronation of George VI) and this is being repeated this year - everyone who wants to can write a diary of their day from the moment they get up until they go to bed that night. Whilst it is unlikely to be as eventful a day as 12th May 1936 turned out to be, it is the very ordinariness which provides the insights into our daily life's which we can leave for our descendants to look at and be amazed. After all if it was not for the Mass Observation Project we wouldn't know that in 1943 liking your spouse was thought to be more important (61%) to loving them (21%) if you wanted a happy marriage or that real coffee (as opposed to instant) came into our lives in Christmas 1986.