This Sussex Life: Ella Beales, Mass Observation: "This is the history I enjoy."
By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Thursday, 21 November 2019
Ella Beales, who graduated this year with a First in English Literature and History at the University of Sussex, has volunteered at The Keep since 2017. She is now helping to catalogue and digitise the Mass Observation archive, a unique collection of writings of everyday life by volunteers.
Now I am working on a project to digitise the Mass Observation archive, so I am writing to anyone who has been a contributor since the 1980s, of which there are thousands, to ask their copyright permission. I’m also continuing to work on the Norman Longmate collection.
I’m intending to take a Masters in contemporary history, part time. I would love to carry on working with these archives, perhaps doing a doctorate, because this is the history that I enjoy. It’s about people’s emotions and feelings. I feel I am connecting with the person who wrote it, and sharing that moment with them. It’s so different to how I learned history at school, which was all about kings and queens.
I share an interest in history with my Dad. He worked away in Africa when I was younger (as a healthy and safety advisor in the oil and gas industry) but always used to take me and my brother to museums whenever he was back in England. He did an MA in history and is now doing a PhD in history.
I’m from a tiny village in Gloucestershire called North Nibley, but when I came to Sussex I felt at home straight away. That doesn’t always seem to be the experience of many of my friends who went to other universities. I developed symptoms of ME [myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome] during my third year, and the University was really supportive in giving me extra time for exams and deadlines. My friends here were wonderful, often coming to sit with me in my room – sometimes in the complete dark – when I had headaches and didn’t have the energy to go out. I’m learning how to manage my illness now, which is why I am only working part time and intend to study part time. I feel very lucky to be part of such as supportive community.
This profile is part of our This Sussex Life series.