Public reference services

Starting your archival research

Archival research is very rewarding but often requires time and patience. Preliminary investigation of a research topic can save you considerable time. Consult published sources available on-line or in local libraries before coming to the Municipal Archives. Local History and Genealogy at Halifax Public Libraries is an excellent starting point for Halifax regional history.

Finding archival materials online

Start your search for primary source documents, original photos, maps, or audio-visual material online before even stepping foot into the Municipal Archives. Search the Municipal Archives database or the Archives’ online search tools to see if the archives has what you’re looking for. 

An increasing percentage of the Municipal Archives’ content is available online, as digital copies of its holdings are made; however, much is still only available in its original format. When you identify material you would like to view, you can either come to view it at the Municipal Archives or request a copy to be sent to you.

Researchers are encouraged to contact the Municipal Archives before their visit to determine if we have other sources for your research project, or to request that materials are ready in advance.

Coming to the Archives to do research

Notice:  We are continuing to ask researchers to book appointments to visit the Archives, to give us time to prepare requested material. To accommodate more researchers and schedules, we have expanded our open hours.  Please contact the Archives to request an appointment or to request copies of records or reference assistance.

The Municipal Archives is located in Burnside, Dartmouth, and has a comfortable and welcoming research room for consultation of finding aids and records. Our facility is wheelchair accessible, with gender-neutral washrooms, and lockers to secure your personal belongings. Researchers can take notes by hand or laptop, and free Wi-Fi access is available.

Archives staff will assist you in identifying sources for your research, including sources available at other organizations. Archives staff will retrieve original records for you or show you how to view microfilm copies.

You are working with unique and often very fragile historical records. We ask that you follow the below rules to help preserve the municipality’s archival records.

Research room rules

  • All researchers must show photo identification when they register.
  • Leave briefcases, large purses, backpacks, umbrellas, and overcoats in the secure lockers in the reception area. The Municipal Archives is not responsible for lost or stolen items.
  • Archival material must not be removed from the research room. Staff reserve the right to inspect bags and folders when you leave the Research Room.
  • Eating, drinking, and chewing gum is prohibited in the research room. Researchers may eat and drink in the lobby area. 
  • Records are delivered to researchers in the research room. To protect the records, staff may limit the amount of material supplied to a researcher at one time.
  • Cameras may be used to photograph documents. For preservation reasons, the use of desk-top scanners is prohibited. 
  • Handle records carefully and deliberately. Follow the handling instructions provided by staff.
  • Cellular phones should be used only in the lobby area out of consideration of other researchers and staff. Please set your phone to silent.
  • The Municipal Archives reserves the right to cancel researcher privileges in the event of persistent violation of these rules or mishandling of the records. 

What if I am unable to come to the Archives?

If you are unable to come to the Reading Room, phone or email  your request with as much detail as possible. The Municipal Archives staff will consult the records on your behalf for up to one hour per year per researcher. Staff will help you identify good archival sources but cannot take the time to do more than minimal research for users.

Users requiring research services beyond one hour, can consult the List of Professional Researchers.