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: As of April 23, 2021, Halifax Municipal Archives is closed to on-site researchers, in response to public health restrictions. You can continue to contact the Archives to request copies or seek research assistance.
The Municipal Archives is located in in Burnside, Dartmouth, and has a comfortable and welcoming research room for consultation of finding aids and records. 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.
Instructions to researchers visiting the Halifax Municipal Archives during the COVID-19 pandemic
In-person reference visits will be by appointment only. We have increased our cleaning regimen and have adjusted our registration and reference procedures to keep everyone safe. Visitors:
- Must make an appointment to visit the Municipal Archives.
- Register as a researcher, if you have not visited the Archives since Jan. 1, 2020. Staff will send you a fillable pdf asking for your name, contact information and a few optional statistical questions, instead of you filling out a paper form on arrival. You will still need to show photo identification when you arrive.
- Must affirm you are symptom-free and not subject to any restrictions as per Nova Scotia Public Health
- 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.
- Are required to wear a non-medical mask (bring your own or we will provide). Staff will also be wearing masks and will assist you at a distance as much as possible.
- Will pre-order materials by phone or email; if you need to request additional material during your visit, please ask the reference archivist to fill out the retrieval slip for you
- Must use the hand-sanitizer provided or wash your hands before handling material or using public access workstations. Please ensure hands are totally dry before touching archival material.
- Are encouraged to bring your own note-taking tools (pencils, paper, laptop, phone). Images of material can be taken with cameras. For large reproduction requests, please ask the Reference archivist to fill out the Copy Request form. See our Copying Fees for more information.
- Must maintain 2m distance from other researchers in the Reading Room; ideally stay at one research table as much as possible.
- After finishing with any material, place them on a Returns cart so that they can be quarantined prior to re-shelving.
For the security of the records, researchers are asked to follow the research room rules.
Research room rules
You are working with unique and often very fragile historical records. These rules outline your responsibilities to help preserve the municipality’s archival records.
- 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 can’t come in-person to the Archives?
If you are unable to come to the Reading Room, phone or email in 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.