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. The Swedish–American Archives of Greater Chicago are housed today in modern, temperature-controlled quarters in the Paul and Bernice Brandel Library under the direction of professional archivist Andy Meyer.

The Society not only welcomes researchers to the archives but also encourages research through its

  • Nils William and Dagmar Olsson Research Fund providing grants to defray expenses for original research in Swedish-American history,
  • Franklin D. Scott Prize honoring the best article by a writer previously unpublished in the Swedish-American Historical Quarterly, and
  • Emerging Scholars Prize recognizing the best article among those submitted by currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, all of whom receive a one-year Society membership.