The Museum of Natural and Cultural History was established in 1936 by the Oregon Legislature. It incorporates several existing collections at the University of Oregon:

  • The paleontology collections, started in the late 1800s with Thomas Condon’s fossil collection; designated in 2018 as the State of Oregon's official fossil repository 
  • 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.