About Our Collections

Francis Joseph Cole was appointed to ‘University College Reading’ in 1906 and was soon promoted to the position of Professor of Zoology. A passionate and creative collector of animal specimens he set to work on a museum collection using a variety of imaginative means. He encouraged donations from overseas visitors and even asked students to bring back exciting finds from their research projects and holidays all over the world.

In 1939 the prestigious journal Nature recognised the collection as ‘being without a rival’ among its contemporaries of the day. Nowadays, somewhat rarely, the Cole collection remains intact, retaining its status as one of the most important and complete UK museums of comparative anatomy – the study of differences between animals.

Professor Cole was not only an enthusiastic gatherer of animal specimens, he also had a fondness for medical and zoological books. Complementing the Museum is the Cole Library of first editions and rare volumes of books and scientific papers. The library may be viewed by appointment.

Other collections

In addition to the main Cole collection the museum houses a number of satellite collections, including an extensive and often used teaching collection for hands-on zoological learning.

Others include fossils, bird and mammal skulls, microscope slides and several bequeathed insect collections.