Mass Observation Archives have been capturing the experiences, thoughts and opinions of British people since 1937, giving a rich and detailed record of everyday life.
This fascinating archive is now based at The Keep, University of Sussex and is a treasure trove of cardboard archive boxes containing pages of typed or hand-written accounts and scraps of newspaper clipping and other ephemera of the time.
Using this material, and with funding from the Institute of Physics, we worked with the archive’s Special Collections team to put together a hands-on family event to explore how the changes in technology within the home have influenced how we live.
The archive material revealed how much washing machines are appreciated doing away with the drudgery of wash day, the fridge freed us up from needing to shop for fresh food everyday, and individual record players and cassette decks enabled young people to listen to their own music.
We explored the physics behind these appliances through making hand-made record players and felt, and playing games to find out how freezing and melting works.