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Planning your visit to Dorset History Centre

A guide to what you will need for your visit, and what you can expect when you arrive.

Before you arrive

Bring any notes, or copies of documents, you already have with you, or make a list of key questions to answer.

You can start your research before you arrive, by making use of our online catalogue. Note down the reference numbers of any items you wish to look at. Our guide to records will also give you an overview of what is available.

The local studies library can be searched using the library catalogue, just select Dorset History Centre from the list of libraries.

There is no need to book an appointment in advance. However, you may like to contact us in advance to discuss your research.

When you arrive

If you are planning on looking at original documents you will need to register for a CARN card at reception. Please bring proof of identity showing name, address and signature. If you already have a CARN card from another record office, please bring this.

There is no need to register if you are planning to use the computers, family history resources or the Local Studies Library.

There is no charge for registering or using the service.

Search rooms

To protect our collections, we ask that visitors use pencils only and do not bring and food or drink in to the research rooms. You are welcome to bring a laptop to use in any of the research rooms. There are lockers available for your bags, including laptop cases, in the refreshment room.

There are three main research areas:

  • local studies library
  • family history search room 
  • archives search room - where original documents are requested and viewed. Document retrieval normally takes about 15 minutes.

Getting copies

Copies of pages from microfilmed records can be taken using our reader-printer machines. Copies are paid for at reception.

Books from the local studies library can be copied using a self-service photocopier. This machine is coin-operated.

Copies of online resources from Ancestry and other websites can be made on a computer. Ask a member of staff in you need any assistance.

Any documents requested and viewed in the search room must either be copied by staff, or you can purchase a self-service photography permit at reception.

Please see our fees and charges for the cost of obtaining copies.

Disabled access

All the public rooms at Dorset History Centre, including the search room, are situated on the ground floor with level access from outside via automatic doors.

There is also an accessible toilet at the centre and hearing loops are fitted at all the enquiry desks. In addition there are three disabled parking bays in the centre car park.

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