Dorset History Centre is the archives service and local studies library for Bournemouth, Christchurch, Dorset and Poole holding over 4000 archive collections and Dorset’s local studies library of some 15,000 items. We are dedicated to preserving, sharing and celebrating the rich heritage of Dorset covering Abbotsbury to Yetminster; artists to zoology.

Before you arrive

Visits are by appointment only. Appointments are limited to allow for social distancing and cleaning between visitors.

All documents must be ordered before your arrival. Please apply for an Archives Card in advance of your visit. 

If you are unwell please contact us to cancel your appointment and do not attend. 

When you arrive

When you visit the Dorset History Centre there are a few things to know:

  • hand sanitiser will be available as you enter the building
  • you cannot bring food or drink into our search room
  • bring your own pencils and notepaper
  • pens are not allowed, it’s pencils only to protect the old documents from accidental ink leaks
  • phones, tablets, laptops and cameras are all permitted, though out of respect to other customers you are asked put them on silent
  • a locker will be available for belongings not permitted in the searchroom
  • two metre distancing must be maintained at all times

How to get an Archives Card

The Archives Card is a single archive reader’s ticket which gives you access to a wealth of original archive material held in archives across the UK. Anyone aged 14 or over can apply for an Archives Card, which is free of charge and valid for 5 years.

You need to apply for a card if you wish to view original documents in any of the archives participating in the scheme. You can start the simple registration process by completing the application form:

Apply for an Archives Card

To complete your registration:

  1. Visit one of the participating archives within 3 months of submitting your form (otherwise your form will be deleted and you will have to enter your details again) 
  2. Bring with you 2 forms of identity as listed on the Archives Card website
  3. A member of archives staff will check these are valid and issue your card.

A recent passport style photograph (head and shoulders only) in electronic form is an essential part of the registration process. You can either add this yourself to your registration form or wait until you visit your chosen archive to complete registration, where a member of staff will take your photograph.

The Archives Card scheme is operated by ARA Commercial, which is a subsidiary of the Archives and Records Association, the leading body for archives in the UK and Ireland.

Taking photos

You'll need to buy a photograph permit if you want to take any photos. Permits cost £8 a day or £25 a week. We are currently only accepting card payments. 

Tips for doing your research

Our top tips are:

  • write everything down - make a note of everything you have looked at, including where it was, when you did the research, the range searched and the name you searched for
  • when you do find something interesting write down exactly what source it is from, including reference number, page and microfilm or fiche number
  • before you visit Dorset History Centre make sure that you know what you are planning to look for

Contact the centre before your visit if you want to check what information we hold: