The inspiration to form The South African Museums Association can be traced back to 1932. Following a survey of the status of Commonwealth museums in Africa by the Carnegie Trust, it was recommended that better cooperation and communication was needed between museums. A circular was sent out on 3 April 1935 to all museums and art galleries to garner support. During a meeting held in The Kimberley Public Library on 23 April 1936, SAMA was founded by 22 individuals representing 19 institutions.
Over the years SAMA has constantly adapted to the needs of a changing society and encouraged the transformation of museums in South Africa.