TARA originated through conversations among Dr Mary Leakey, Sir Laurens van der Post, and David Coulson in the 1980s about their common interest in the little documented and unprotected rock art that existed throughout Africa. Inspired by the passion of Leakey and van der Post, Coulson and his colleague (Alec Campbell, Director and Founder for the National Museum of Botswana) embarked on their first major documentation trip in 1995 to Niger and Algeria respectively. In 1996, Coulson met with Thomas Hill and Bruce Ludwig in Kenya when TARA was formally named and established.

After TARA’s official registration, Coulson and Campbell travelled extensively throughout Africa surveying known and hitherto unknown sites. In the early 2000s, thanks to the support of the Andrew Mellon Foundation, TARA was able to establish its digital archives. Meanwhile, in the mid-2000s, the importance of the Trust’s work was endorsed by Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan. In 2012, TARA signed a partnership agreement with the British Museum, whereby the Museum would acquire a digital copy of the Trust’s photographic archive to ensure its preservation and wide availability.