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Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture

'Trailing' for bonfire wood, Castle Bolton, North Yorkshire (1967)

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

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.

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.

See also