The present Swedish–American Archives of Greater Chicago owe their existence to a number of dedicated men and women, but no one more than Selma Jacobson, a retired Chicago public school teacher whose perseverance brought them about and who served as the first archivist from 1968 to 1981. One goal of the fledgling Swedish Pioneer Historical Society in 1948 was "to collect and preserve documents and general data of historical interest," but other concerns took precedence until 1962, when an archives committee was created after Jacobson goaded at the annual meeting, "Somebody ought to begin to collect things."

“Without the aid of original records and authentic documents, history will be nothing more than a well-combined series of ingenious conjectures and amusing fables.” –Address to the Public, The New York Historical Society, 1805

In 1968, North Park College, where the Society has had its headquarters since 1950, made space available for an archives in the former library with Jacobson as archivist. After a series of moves and years of growth, the archives is now permanently housed in modern, temperature-controlled quarters in the Paul and Bernice Brandel Library under the direction of a professional archivist, Andy Meyer. For more, see "SAHS Archives."

The Society not only has provided the archives for research use but has taken steps to encourage research through its Nils William and Dagmar Olsson Research Fund and Franklin D. Scott Prize. The Olsson fund, established in 1969, has provided grants leading to a number of published articles and books. The Scott Prize is awarded annually for best first article by an author in the Swedish-American Historical Quarterly.