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Twenty-five years after the BBC’s revolutionary Domesday Project, the collected photographs and articles of people across the United Kingdom are finally available online. This digital snapshot of life in Britain was the creation of a million contributors, each charting everyday life where they lived, and one of them joined The Hour today.
The project was inspired by William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book, a 900-year-old record of life in the English counties south of the rivers Ribble and Tees in 1086. To this day the book is very much intact and held in a special chest at The National Archives in Kew, London.
It’s hoped that the BBC’s Domesday Project, particularly now that it is online, will survive at least as long.
Julia Sutherland, who took part in the project when she was in school, told The Hour: “They got a million people involved and this was mostly children, Scout groups, Women's Institutes, so it was real people writing about their area. You took pictures and we wrote about everything form the agriculture to the flowers. It was really, really interesting actually.”
When the project was completed, over 108,000 square kilometres of the UK had been surveyed, 147,819 pages of text had been submitted and 23,225 amateur photographs had been taken, but at the time hardly anyone could see them. The data was stored on a special Laser-Disc readable only by an expensive BBC master computer that few schools or libraries could afford.
George Auckland, who was Head of Innovation at BBC Learning until recently, told the BBC: “I saw it as being a massive piece of unfinished business, and that’s the thing that kept me going. That feeling that somehow or other we would get to the point where we could say please now come back and enjoy what you did with us and for us 25 years ago.”
To access all of the information recorded by the Domesday Project, visit the Domesday Reloaded website.