"The objects of the Society shall be to collect and publish the best information on the natural sciences and antiquities (including history, records, genealogy, customs and heraldry) of the three counties of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Wigtown; to procure the preservation of objects of natural science and antiquities relative to the district; to encourage local research and field activities in natural science and excavations by private individuals or public bodies and afford them suggestions and co-operation; to prevent as far as possible, any injury to ancient monuments and records, etc.; and to collect photographs, drawings and descriptions and transcripts of the same." (Rule 2)
The Society was founded at a meeting held in the Mechanics' Hall, Dumfries, at 8.00 p.m. on Thursday, 20 November 1862. The meeting had been called at the instigation of Dr James Gilchrist, Dr J Dickson and Mr W G Gibson who had decided to ‘call together local gentlemen interested in the cultivation of Natural History and Antiquarian Research at Dumfries.’ The first President was the eminent natural historian Sir William Jardine, Bart., of Applegarth.
Membership rose quickly and the first volume of the Proceedings and Transactions (for 1862–63) were published the following year. From about 1868 there was a reduction in numbers and the Society fell into a decline during the early to mid 1870s. However, the Society was re-constituted at a meeting held on 3 November 1876 at No 1 Union Street, Dumfries. From that day to the present it has continued strongly in existence providing a focus for interests in all antiquarian, archaeological, historical, genealogical and natural history topics for Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire, Wigtownshire and the surrounding areas.
The routine business of the Society comprises a series of (usually) eleven Winter evening lecture meetings — one of which is usually a members night. All meetings, unless otherwise indicated, are held in the Dumfries Baptist Church Centre, Gillbrae Road, Dumfries, at 7.30 p.m. The final meeting of the Winter Session is normally held in Castle Douglas.
During the course of the summer months a number of excursions usually take place.
The current state of the Society is as outlined within the Report of Council.
The Society publishes an annual volume of Transactions and proceedings — see the Transactions page.
A list of Members, as in May 1998, appeared in Volume 72 of the Transactions and a copy of the current Rules, dated 13 October 1995, appeared in Volume 69.
- The chief officer of the Society is the Honorary President. He or she presides at the ordinary meetings of the Society and takes the chair at council meetings.
- The Honorary Secretary deals with all general matters of the Society (i.e., all matters other than the specific areas handled by the officers mentioned below).
- Matters concerning membership of the Society and payment of subscriptions are dealt with by the Honorary Membership Secretary. See the Joining DGNHAS page for further information.
- Financial matters (other than subscriptions) are dealt with by the Honorary Treasurer.
- The production of the Transactions is overseen by a General Editor (responsible for content) and a Business Editor (responsible for production).
- The programme of events for each session is the responsibility of the Syllabus Editor(s) and the Excursions Organiser.
- The Society exchanges publications with a number similar organisations and like-minded institutions throughout the United Kingdom and around the world. These exchange volumes are sent to the Honorary Librarian. Exchange volumes are deposited in the Library of Dumfries Museum at which location they may be freely consulted by members. However, as public opening hours may vary, it is recommended that prior contact be made with Museum staff (telephone 01387 253374) before visiting.
- The Society's website is overseen by its Webmaster.
The attention of members and friends is drawn to the important Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax concessions which are conferred on individuals by the Finance Acts, in as much as bequests, or transfers of shares or cash to the Society are exempt from these taxes.