British Online Archives: The UFO Files

In episode 2 of the British Online Archives podcast I talk about The National Archives UFO project and my campaign to persuade the Ministry of Defence to open their files to the public.

Host Jim Chisem asked me to explain how I became interested in the folklore of UFOs and government investigations of aerial phenomena.

Long before the introduction of Freedom of Information, I began making requests for key historical documents, including the MoD’s file on the Rendlesham forest incident and the Flying Saucer Working Party study, using the Code of Practice for Access to Government Information.

The campaign picked up momentum following the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2005. In the following year, working with Gary Anthony, our FOI requests led to the release of the MoD’s Condign report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs).

From 2008 to 2013 I acted as academic consultant for National Archives/MoD project that led to the opening of the remaining 210 archives files on UFOs held by the Ministry of Defence. Six of these files contain some 3,000 pages of correspondence between myself and the UFO desk officers covering the years 1999-2008.

The discussion includes the early history of the phenomenon, pop culture influences and both Fortean and skeptical approaches to the interpretation of unexplained phenomena.

UFO folklore is just one of the modern legends that fall within the remit of the newly-founded Centre for Contemporary Legend, a research group based at Sheffield Hallam University, that was launched at an inaugeral conference in November 2018.

The podcast can be downloaded here.

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