The Museum of Natural and Cultural History was established in 1936 by the Oregon Legislative Assembly to incorporate several existing collections at the University of Oregon:
- The paleontology collections, beginning with Thomas Condon’s collection of fossils
- The anthropology collections, established in 1934 and designated the Oregon State Museum of Anthropology in 1935
- The zoology collections, developed by A.C. Shelton, field collector for the department of Zoology, in the early 20th century and expanded in the 1920s with A.G. Prill’s ornithological collections
Building on this legacy, the museum continues to pursue research in archaeology, anthropology and paleontology and expand its collections in these fields. The zoology holdings serve as comparative collections for study, reference, and exhibition.