The South Australian Museum makes archival information available to local and international communities through publication, promotion, education and exhibitions. The specialised knowledge contained in the Museum’s archives contributes to a better understanding of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander cultures, 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 In 1980 the registration system was superseded by the record group system where collections are accessioned by collector or donor.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.
The majority of corporate records dating pre-1940 were transferred to State Records of South Australia. Many of the Archive collections are still unprocessed.