Public reference services

Starting your archival research

Archival research can be rewarding, but often requires time and patience. Preliminary investigation of a research topic can save you considerable time. Consult published sources available online 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

You can start your search for primary source documents, original photographs, maps, or audio-visual material online before even stepping foot into the Municipal Archives. Search the Municipal Archives database or view our online search tools to see if we have 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 for a fee.

Researchers are encouraged to contact the Municipal Archives to determine if we have other sources for your research project, or to request an appointment.

Coming to the Archives to do research

Please contact the Municipal Archives to request an appointment, to request copies of records, or for reference assistance.

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

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

Research room rules

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.

  • 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, you can submit requests by phone or email. When submitting a request, please provide as much as much detail as possible to help us better identify potential sources for your research. 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 our List of Professional Researchers available for hire.