Dorset History Centre is dedicated to preserving, sharing and celebrating the rich heritage of Dorset.

Who we are

Dorset History Centre brings together two services: Dorset Record Office and Dorset County Local Studies Library. We were awarded Archive Service Accreditation by The National Archives in 2018. 

Dorset Record Office was founded in 1955, originally based at County Hall in Dorchester. The collections expanded considerably and in 1991 the Record Office moved to a purpose-built building with environmentally controlled strong rooms on Bridport Road.

In 2005 the County Local Studies Library was moved to the Record Office which was then renamed Dorset History Centre. We now hold the archives of Dorset, ranging from Council records to personal collections, as well as books, pamphlets and other publications.

What we do


Service plan

The Service Plan provides an up to date record of the Joint Archives Service's current workstreams and their anticipated outcomes together with a range of other information about the service.


Joint Archives Agreement

The Joint Archives Service for Dorset was created as a result of an agreement between the former Bournemouth Borough Council, the former Dorset County Council and the former Borough of Poole at the time of local government reorganisation in 1997.

In setting up the Joint Archives Service, the three former councils recognised the importance of keeping the county's historic archives together in one place, so avoiding the de-aggregation of the collections along geographical lines.

In addition, the financial benefit achieved through maintaining a single service rather than three separate ones was a significant factor in ensuring a single pan-Dorset service endured.

Joint Archives Advisory Board

Governance of the Joint Archives Service is delivered through the Joint Archives Advisory Board (JAAB). The Board is made up of eight elected members, (four from Dorset and four from Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole). It meets two or three times annually.

To view more information about the JAAB, see the former Dorset County Council's committee pages.