The Museum was established in the early 20th century by Francis J. Cole, Professor of Zoology from 1907 to 1939. The Collection was originally housed at the London Road campus until the early 1970s when it was transported to its present location at Whiteknights.
The Cole Museum of Zoology contains some 3500 specimens of which about 400 are on display at any one time. Specimens are arranged in taxonomic sequence enabling a complete tour of the diversity of the Animal Kingdom to be completed in less than one hour.
The African Tree Pangolin (Phylum Chordata; Class Mammalia; Manis tricuspis), occurs in the west-central rainforests of Africa. Tree pangolins can climb up their long prehensile tail in the absence of branches.Highlights of the Collection include complete skeletons of a male Indian Elephant, a False Killer Whale, a five metre Reticulated Python, and a pair of Giant Spider Crabs.
In 2003, the Museum underwent an extensive refurbishment program funded by the University of Reading Teaching and Learning Development Fund, and a grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Board (AHRC). A second grant from the AHRC in 2007 funded a conservation project that focussed on specimens preserved in fluid.