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Museum News

Volunteers needed to help record local dialects!

volunteers needed

Weald & Downland Living Museum and the University of Leeds are seeking volunteers to help with an exciting new project to record local dialects.

Do you take a packed lunch, snap, bait or jock when you’re going out for the day?

The In your words: Dialect and Heritage Project, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, is involving volunteers in updating the University of Leeds’s ground-breaking Survey of English Dialects.

Weald & Downland Living Museum, near Chichester, is a key partner in the project and is working with the University to open-up its extensive archives and to collect dialect from people across Sussex, Surrey, and Hampshire. There are various volunteer roles available, from helping at events to collecting and transcribing oral histories.

Amy Stone, the project’s engagement officer based at Weald & Downland Living Museum said: “This unique project follows in the footsteps of dialect fieldworkers who carried out the Survey of English Dialects in the 1950s, this time with the help of volunteers.”

The post-war Survey of English Dialects involved researchers visiting over 300 mainly rural locations across the country, including 18 villages in Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. The aim was to document different words, pronunciations and grammatical forms used by people all over the country. Participants were asked questions from the Survey of English Dialects Questionnaire, which contained over 1300 questions. Responses were written down in the fieldworkers’ notebooks using the International Phonetic Alphabet. Later, some interviews were recorded on reel-to-reel tapes.

More than 70 years after the original survey, the Dialect and Heritage project will collect dialect through surveys, oral histories and reminiscence activities. Weald & Downland Living Museum is looking for volunteers to carry out these activities alongside the project team, with training provided. The Museum is particularly looking for volunteers who enjoy chatting with other people and who would be happy to attend country shows and other community events over the next year. There are also opportunities for people to get involved with some of the ‘behind the scenes’ work including data entry and transcribing oral histories and interviews.

Lucy Hockley, Head of Collections & Interpretation at the Weald & Downland Living Museum said: “We are looking forward to the February Historic Life weekend focusing on dialect, and hope from this weekend new volunteers interested in the project, as the public phase of it develops, will find out more and want to get involved.

“The words we use both express our lives today but also where we have moved and family connections with different regions. Most families have words that you realise you use but are not so common around you. The discussions of what they are and how they came about are fascinating!”

You can find out more details about the Historic Life Weekend event here: Uncover Your Dialect Inheritance event (12-13 February)

Volunteering Opportunities

People who are interested in volunteering with the project can contact Amy Stone on a.stone2@leeds.ac.uk to find out more or sign up by visiting our volunteering page 

A new website is due to be launched for the project soon and there will be opportunities for the general public to contribute their own words and dialect via the website and by attending advertised events and roadshows during the year.