Purpose The purpose of this paper is to identify the leading topics and developmental trends of archival information resource research in China by visualizing the intellectual structure and evolution patterns of archival information resource research. Design/methodology/approach This study took China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) as the data source and extracted keywords from relevant articles in archival information resource research as the sample. First, the frequency and co-occurrence of keywords were calculated by using SCI2. Second, this study analyzed the co-word network indicators by using Pajek. Then, topic community detection was conducted by using a VOS viewer, as well as the visualization of intellectual structures. Next, this study developed a graphical mapping of the evolution of research topics over time by using Cortext. Findings The research topics of archival information resources in China were unbalanced but distinct. Researchers focus on the construction and utilization of archival information resource, which consist of five evident research directions. The phenomena of fusion and differentiation coexist in research topic evolution. There were both continuities of traditional research and innovations in emerging research. The archival information resource research tended to be systematized and extended, reflecting the vertical and horizontal extension of the research content. Originality/value Based on a large number of previous studies, this study adopted quantitative methods to reveal the intellectual structure and evolution patterns of archival information resource research in China, providing guidance for researchers and institutions to grasp research status and developmental trends.