Established in 1919, South Australia's State Archives Department was the first state archives in Australia and an early leader in the preservation of the corporate memory of an Australian state.
Originally located in the former colonial military store at the rear of the Art Gallery on North Terrace, the South Australian Archives opened its doors to researchers in 1920. Holdings included both government and private records.
Legislation enacted in 1925 prohibited the destruction of South Australian Government records without the approval of the Libraries Board of South Australia. The legislation empowered the Board to take records into its custody and provided for the recovery of government documents in the hands of 'unauthorised persons'. The Act, in modified form, was incorporated into the Libraries Act 1982. The State Records Act was enacted in 1997.
Although originally established as a department in its own right, effective control of the Archives passed to the State Library in 1961. This situation was further consolidated in 1969 when the Archives, which still incorporated both public and private records, moved to the basement of the State Library building on North Terrace.
Public Record Office
The next major change occurred on 1 October 1985, when the South Australian Archives divided into government record holdings and private collections.
The government archives became the Public Record Office, a division of the Department of Local Government. The archival records of private individuals, churches, societies and businesses held by the South Australian Archives were combined with published material from the South Australian Collection of the State Library to establish the Mortlock Library of South Australia (December 1985).
Progressively from December 1987, the Public Record Office left the State Library basement. In June 1988, the purpose-built Gepps Cross facility (Cavan Road) was officially opened and operated as a shared facility with the Australian Archives - the first such arrangement between a state and commonwealth archival agency. The research centre operated out of the Norwich Centre building, King William Road, North Adelaide.
Becoming State Records
The dismantling of the Department of Local Government in 1990 saw a further significant change with the Public Record Office becoming State Records of South Australia under the umbrella of the Department of State Services (1990-1995).
In 1995, the Norwich Centre Reading Room was closed and a new research centre was opened at Netley Commercial Park. Additionally, the National Archives (formerly the Australian Archives) began to reduce its holdings at the Gepps Cross Repository and by 1999 State Records had taken over the entire site.
From 1995-1997, State Records sat under Services SA and in November 1997 was incorporated into the Department for Administrative and Information Services (DAIS). In 2006, as part of South Australia's State Budget, a restructure of the South Australian public sector was announced, which included the abolition of DAIS. As a result, on 1 October 2006, State Records became a business unit of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. Following a Machinery of Government change in 2015, State Records was moved under the Attorney General's Department on 1 July 2015.
In 2004 State Records closed its Netley research facility and opened two new research centres, at Gepps Cross, Cavan and Leigh St, Adelaide. The Leigh St research centre was co-located with the National Archives of Australia, Adelaide Office and was known as the South Australian Archives Centre.
After 10 years of operation, the Gepps Cross and Leigh St research centres closed in August 2014 and State Records opened a single city based research centre at the State Library of South Australia, on the corner of Kintore Avenue and Nth Terrace, as part of a co-location arrangement. This arrangement ended in December 2015.
Gepps Cross Research Centre reopened on 19 January 2016 as part of an effort to consolidate accommodation and improve delivery of services.