Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a cost to use the Dorset History Centre?

There is no charge to search the catalogue or to visit the History Centre to view our documents. Some of our services do incur a charge – see our website for details.

Why can’t I see images of the documents?

We currently hold several million documents in hard copy. We are unable to digitise all of these documents, although some of the most frequently used collections are available via This is a subscription site but can be viewed free of charge at the Dorset History Centre and some public libraries.

I haven't a clue where to start! What do I do?

Try searching for a name or a place in the catalogue search box (top right). No results? Try using our collections guide to find the type of records which might be useful. Contact us for further guidance on how to go about your research.

I've found some useful results. How do I see the documents?

That’s great. You can either visit us at the Dorset History Centre to view the documents or we can provide copies for you.

I haven't found what I'm looking for. Why not?

Searching will only find exact matches in the catalogue. The catalogue contains descriptions of the documents rather than transcripts or images of the content. If you don't find anything the first time, try searching for related words. You can also visit our How do I search the catalogue? page for tips on searching. Contact us for further guidance on how to go about your research, and what types of sources you may find useful.

Can I get a copy of documents in the collections?

Yes, we can normally provide copies of documents. There are some exceptions related to Data Protection, copyright and the condition of the document. See our website for details of obtaining copies. If you are able to visit us, you can buy a photographic permit and use your own device to photograph the majority of our documents in the search room. Please note that permission will need to be obtained from the copyright holder if you wish to publish copies of any material held by Dorset History Centre.

I have found records in the catalogue that I am interested in. Can you undertake research for me?

Yes. If you are unable to visit the Dorset History Centre in person, the research service can search documents on your behalf.

Does the online catalogue hold details of all of your collections?

No, but the online catalogue contains some details of most of our collections. Some collections are only partially listed in the online catalogue. Other collections are still uncatalogued or only have catalogues and indexes available at the Dorset History Centre. Please contact us if you are unable to find what you are looking for.

Do your collections cover Bournemouth and Poole?

Yes, the Dorset History Centre holds records for the whole county of Dorset including Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. We are jointly funded by Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council; and Dorset Council.

Are there any Dorset documents not in your catalogue?

Yes, some documents about Dorset can be found in other archives. Some Dorset documents may be held in The National Archives or other local or specialist archives. Try searching The National Archives Discovery catalogue, to find documents held elsewhere.

I've got something that might interest you. How do I get in touch?

See our website for information about depositing records at Dorset History Centre.

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