The South Australian Museum came into being in 1856 by the passing of the South Australian Institutes Act. This Act established the South Australian Institute that incorporated a Public Library and Museum.
The first reference to the Museum Library was in the Annual Report of 1897-8, although it is likely that a small collection of books was available to curatorial staff from 1883. The first known donation was “a valuable donation by His Honour the Chief Justice’ in 1898.
The first appointed Museum Librarian was in 1955. Successive Librarians have contributed to the updating and classification of purchases, exchange material as well as the large collections donated to the Library.
The Library maintains a core collection of key reference works supporting scientific, collection and exhibition research undertaken at the Museum, display and promotion in the galleries, and through publications.
The collection has grown steadily and includes purchases, exchanges and donations of some rare scientific works. It exists as a vital research tool for Museum staff and is also a source of specialised publications for other researchers.
Subjects covered with a State, national and where appropriate, international emphasis are anthropology, archaeology, foreign ethnology, geology, mineralogy, palaeontology, natural history, zoology, museum studies and display methods.
The library collection includes monographs and scientific journals may dating from the 19th century and early 20th century. There are old and rare books published prior to 1900. Rare books include volumes of natural history, Australian Aboriginal studies and exploration of Australia.
The library consists of approximately 15,000 monographs, Rare Book Collection of 2300 items and 30,000 volumes of journals and 17,000 photographic images.
Holdings are now added to Kinetica.