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National Lottery Heritage Fund grant for Vernacular archive

The Dialect and Heritage project has been awarded £530,500 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to open up the extensive Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture (LAVC) to the public.

The archive includes the ground-breaking work of the Survey of English Dialects, carried out by nine intrepid fieldworkers in the 1950s and is held in Special Collections.

The survey will now be updated and made available online for the first time, with the help of volunteers recruited and trained as oral history and dialect fieldworkers and transcribers.

From January, a year will be spent digitising the notebooks, photographs, word maps and audio recordings from the original fieldwork. Further extensive fieldwork will then be undertaken from 2021-23, making new oral history recordings – some of them including descendants of the original survey interviewees.

“If you, your parents, grandparents or other relatives have a connection to these historical dialect studies, the project would like to hear from you,” said Dr Fiona Douglas, from School of English, who is leading the project.

A roadshow, complete with pop-up dialect kit, will go on tour as part of the project’s ongoing work with five partner museums – Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings in Worcestershire, Dales Countryside Museum and Ryedale Folk Museum in North Yorkshire, Suffolk’s Museum of East Anglian Life, and Weald and Downland Living Museum in West Sussex.

The project was awarded initial development funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2017 to lay the ground work for the project’s next, three-year phase.

The first phase of Dialect and Heritage proved there is a huge appetite in the country to preserve an understanding of dialect,” said Dr Douglas “The enthusiasm of visitors and volunteers at our museum partners is testament to that.

“The project will preserve this invaluable cultural legacy for future generations.”