The McGregor Museum’s archaeology collection dates back to 1908 when Maria Wilman, first museum director, accessioned the first items.
In the first three decades of the museum's history, acquisitions were typically one or two items per accession entry, for example a handaxe here, a bored stone there. They came mainly from sites around Kimberley and Koffiefontein. Amateur archaeologists J.A. Swan, J.H. Power and W. Fowler were responsible for 24% of the collections. Members of the public, about 200 in number, were the donors of the remainder of the collections in this period. A sharp decline in donations occurred in the years of the Great Depression.
In the decades 1938-1957, the war years were a lean period. Geographical representation in the acquisition of new collections shrinks to the area around Kimberley. J.A. Swan, W. Fowler and H. Breuil and 63 others brought material to the museum.
A decade of expansion and the first systematic work followed from 1958, coinciding with the tenure of Dr G.J. Fock, who was the first professional archaeologist to be appointed as such at a museum in South Africa. Accessions include the excavated material from Rooidam 1 and Doornlaagte. G.J. Fock and J.H. Power and another 85 individuals were responsible for the collections at this period.
In the decades from 1968 large-scale projects were initiated by A.J.B. Humphreys and his successor P.B. Beaumont (from 1978). Research was focused along the Riet River, the Ghaap Escarpment, Kuruman Hills (including Wonderwerk Cave where F. & A. Thackeray joined P. Beaumont in renewed research there) and in the Upper Karoo. Gerhard Fock and his wife Dora embarked on their survey of rock engravings in the Northern Cape after he retired in 1967 (see below). Contributions from the lay public dropped to 48 individuals, a reflection of an increasingly professionalized discipline, and the operation of the National Monuments Act that prohibited removal of material without a permit. Since 1994 there has been an increasing interest by researchers from outside the country and one of the most important developments has been the burgeoning of collaborative projects.(The above information is gleaned mainly from a poster by David Morris & Sephai Mngqolo, 1990).