Archival information is made available to the local and international community through publication, promotion, education and exhibitions. The specialised knowledge contained in the Museum's archives contributes to a better understanding of Indigenous culture, geological diversity and biodiversity.
To supplement the South Australian Museum's research interests, documents have also been collected by donation, bequest and acquisition. Fellow scientists, missionaries, Indigenous organisations, artists, police inspectors, medical doctors and photographers from the mid-1800s have all contributed to the wealth of knowledge contained in the Museum archives.
The South Australian Museum Archives was formally established in the 1940s when the Curator of Anthropology, Norman B. Tindale, recognised the need to manage the collections and aid their retrieval. In 1966 Graeme Pretty, Tindale's successor, developed the existing system further by adding a classification system linking the objects to the archives. In 1980 the registration system was superseded by the record group system where collections are accessioned by collector or donor. This system continues to be used today.