The Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture (LAVC) comprises the multi-media archives of the Survey of English Dialects (SED) that ran under the direction of Professor Harold Orton from the 1950s to early 1960s and the University of Leeds’s Institute of Dialect and Folk Life Studies (IDFLS) that operated 1964-1983.
Together they represent a record of dialect, culture, beliefs and ways of life in rural England from the late 19th-20th centuries. The archive is of significant value to linguistic, cultural, community and family history researchers, offering fascinating insights into how our ancestors lived, worked and spoke.
The material covers a broad range of subject areas, including:
- Language and dialect
- Food and drink
- Working life (including tools, utensils, materials and methods)
- Crafts, hobbies and pastimes
- Buildings/vernacular architecture
- Culture and tradition (folklore, music, drama and dance)
- Customs and beliefs
- Material culture
What's in the collection
- Survey of English Dialects questionnaire and response books for 313 localities across England.
- Audio recordings of informants from most Survey localities (including transcriptions).
- Printed and manuscript items relating to design and roll-out of Survey questionnaire (including Orton's prior work, his correspondence with fieldworkers and fieldworker notebooks).
- Print and manuscript items relating to analysis and publication of Survey results including interpretative Word Maps (relating to the publication of the Linguistic Atlas of England and Word Geography of England).
- Over 2000 photographs (including notes on subjects and informants) mainly relating to the Institute’s later Folk Life Survey (c.1964) but also relating to Survey locations and informants.
- Over 800 audio recordings made by the Institute relating to dialect and folk life across the UK and abroad (including staff and student related research, papers and film).
- Print books and pamphlets from the Institute’s Reference Library (including the “Folk Life Files” -subject files of cuttings).
Creation of the archive
In 2002, the University of Leeds School of English received an award from the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) to develop the archives of the IDFLS and SED. Under this project the two collections were merged to create the LAVC, with an archive catalogue, arranged into 16 series (many by format). The full collection has been accessible at the University Library Special Collections since 2005, with some material being available since the 1990s.
A National Lottery Heritage Grant was awarded to the University in 2019 and is allowing Special Collections and the School of English to update and enhance the catalogue and undertake a programme of digitisation, outreach and research.
- The University of Leeds Dialect and Heritage project page
- The Dialect and Heritage twitter feed - for updates on the project
- Extracts of SED recordings available at the British Library