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Visits by community groups

Dorset History Centre is working hard to make sure everyone can benefit from our services. We are particularly extending a warm welcome to those with learning disabilities, the visually impaired, those affected by dementia or memory loss, and carers.

Day opportunities and activities

Dorset History Centre is home to 1000 years of records covering Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset, and is free to use. You can research your family history; read letters, diaries and newspapers from across the centuries; view photographs and maps; listen to talks and histories or just browse the local studies reference library. Staff are on hand to help with your queries, the building is fully accessible and the coffee is good!


We welcome people with dementia or memory loss and their carers. We are members of the Dementia Action Alliance and History Centre staff have received dementia awareness training.

We understand that a new environment can be daunting, and so we offer a one-to-one introduction (pdf, 48kb) (opens in a new window) to using the archive for those affected by dementia and their carers. This involves a friendly cup of tea, an exploration of your interests and a chance to try the kinds of resources and activities which either of you might enjoy. There is no charge for this service.

In addition, we deliver small group reminiscence (pdf, 621kb) (opens in a new window) sessions to day centres and care homes, using local images and sound clips to stimulate both memories and discussions.

Learning difficulties

We welcome people with learning difficulties. You could find out about your family or where you live.

Some groups are working with us to record their own memories so that others can find out about their lives and opinions. We work best with small groups who bring some helpers with them.

Visually impaired

We hold an interesting range of audio recordings reflecting life in Dorset over the past 100 years as well as a small selection of talks. Our staff are happy to help you access these during our normal opening hours. To discuss borrowing recordings for groups or those unable to visit, please contact us.

If you are interested in viewing original documents we have visual aids available in the searchroom.

For a friendly chat about visiting us, please contact Community Engagement Officer, Maria.

Group induction sessions

For community or educational groups, we can offer sessions that demonstrate how to use the History Centre, and what sources are available to help with research projects. The content of these sessions can be tailored to particular themes or geographical areas of interest. The sessions will usually include:

  • a chance to see original, historical documents first-hand - charters with the seals of kings and queens, prisoner records, a map of the Caribbean hidden inside the cover of a parish register ... and much more!
  • a 'behind the scenes' tour of our specialist storage facilities - environmentally controlled archive repositories with 6 miles of shelving! Learn how we protect against threats like floods, fire or pests.
  • an opportunity to start some basic research - participants can look for their relatives family or surname in our indexes, or make use of the free on-site access to the popular Ancestry website.

These induction sessions usually last around one to one-and-a-half hours. The fee is £50.

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