School of Sociology and Social Policy

Timescapes: An ESRC Qualitative Longitudinal Initiative

Family lives over time

This event was held on the 29 October 2011 in Leeds City Art Gallery, and was a free day long exhibition with a family history workshop component (also free, one hour in duration).

Aim of event

The event aimed to showcase the five years of research that has been undertaken by the Timescapes Initiative about the dynamics of family life.

The research project ‘Timescapes’ (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council) explored how family and personal lives are worked out over time and across the generations.

Researchers from five universities across England, Wales and Scotland had been ‘walking alongside’ people from all walks of life and all ages to document how their lives unfold and to understand these changes from the perspectives of the people themselves.

In this way, Timescapes attempted to turn ‘snap shots’ of social life into a movie, complete with personal narratives, photos, videos and sound recordings. These rich accounts have been gathered together to form the Timescapes Archive, a resource of data for the use of future researchers and social historians.

The public event, as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, aimed to exhibit the rich accounts of young people, parents, grandparents and the oldest generation gathered as part of the Timescapes research programme.

The exhibition also included materials from the Mass Observation Archive. Based in Sussex, this is a rich historical archive that has been documenting the ordinary everyday lives of people across the UK since before World War Two. Bringing accounts together across these two archives illustrated the possibilities for enriching our understanding of changing family lives from both a biographical and historical perspective.    

The Timescapes event explored the value of social history, explaining how peoples’ memories are important to understanding society and how the public can help in social research.

Attendees of the exhibition had the opportunity to contribute their own memories, displayed on a ‘memory wall,’ for people to see what social research is about and to be part of research too. Leaflets and further information about family lives, both in terms of social research and family history were also available for the public to give them further details about the topic.

Policy briefing papers for each project were also displayed. These helped to disseminate the research more widely within the public domain.

Exhibition Boards

© Copyright Leeds 2011