Dialect and Heritage project



Partners and collaborators

The University’s School of English and Library’s Special Collections are delivering the Dialect and Heritage Project in partnership with five museums – Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings in Worcestershire, Dales Countryside Museum and Ryedale Folk Museum in North Yorkshire, Suffolk’s Museum of East Anglian Life, and Weald and Downland Living Museum in West Sussex.  

Fieldworker informant lavc


Led by Dr Fiona Douglas of the School of English, the Dialect and Heritage project will open up the extensive Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture to the public.  

The archive, which includes the ground-breaking work of the Survey of English Dialects, is held in Leeds University Library’s Special Collections.  

The new project is continuing the work begun by Harold Orton and Eugen Dieth in the 1940s.  The survey will be updated and made available online for the first time, with the help of volunteers recruited and trained as oral history and dialect fieldworkers and transcribers.  They will follow in the footsteps of the dialect pioneers who set out from Leeds 70 years ago to record and map dialects from all corners of the country.

Through working with five partner museums, the Dialect and Heritage project team will involve people from across the country in sharing their dialect – regardless of location, background, age or gender.  The aim is to capture a snapshot of present-day dialect, in all its exciting diversity.

Researchers are also looking for descendants of the people who took part in the original Survey of English Dialects, which ran from 1946-1978, or with connections to the Institute of Dialect and Folk Life Studies, which was in operation between 1963 and 1983, in order that they can share their stories and memories.  

The notebooks, photographs, word maps and audio recordings from the original fieldwork will be digitised during 2020. Further extensive fieldwork will then be undertaken from 2021-23.


Through the University's partnership with Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings in Worcestershire, Dales Countryside Museum and Ryedale Folk Museum in North Yorkshire, Suffolk’s Museum of East Anglian Life, and Weald and Downland Living Museum in West Sussex, material from the Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture will enrich these museums’ important collections and bring together a rich national inheritance of dialect and vernacular heritage, the pieces of which are currently scattered. 

The project will:

  • Index, digitise and make publicly available the Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture
  • Develop interpretation for permanent and temporary exhibition in partner museums
  • Create a pop-up dialect kit, complementary workshop materials and activities 
  • Create a website specifically designed to engage a wide range of users
  • Recruit and train up to 150 volunteers as oral history and dialect fieldworkers
  • Collect and transcribe new oral history/dialect recordings
  • Develop downloadable online learning resources for schools