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Page last updated at 08:59 GMT, Wednesday, 4 July 2012 09:59 UK

What's on your mantelpiece?


Anna Parry's mantelpiece (@anna_fran)

An intense study of the lives of people in Britain called Mass Observation was started 75 years ago.

They tasked a team of volunteer observers to record people's thoughts and behaviour on a diverse range of topics: everything from the private lives of midwives to thoughts on race and class; they called the project Mass Observation.

To mark the anniversary the Today programme is going through the archive and have been running a number of reports.

This time the programme is looking at: What's on your Mantelpiece? It was a genuine question posed in the first year of Mass Observation. Allan Little reports.

Rachel Hurdley, a research fellow at the Cardiff University School of Social Sciences, points out that with the amount of letters people used to receive, the mantelpiece was "this kind of ongoing to do list and address book".

"The form of communication with the outside world was the letter, the mantelpiece was like your iPad today," she said.

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