The Slater Museum of Natural History houses 75,000 natural history specimens. These specimens and their associated data provide an archive of species’ existence in time and space. Origins of the museum date to the 1920’s when James R. Slater began research on reptiles and amphibians in the Pacific Northwest. The bird collection began 1934 by Gordon D. Alcorn and the mammal collection 1946 by Murray L. Johnson. The collections were formerly organized as the Puget Sound Museum in 1946 and the name was changed to James R. Slater Museum of Natural History in 1979 to honor the founder. Throughout its history the museum has been closely associated with the Department of Biology. Significant dates in the history of the Slater Museum are:
1919 James R. Slater began teaching biology at College of Puget Sound (CPS)
1924 New CPS campus at N 15th & N Warner moved from 6th & Sprague consists of Jones Hall and Gymnasium
1926 Howarth Hall erected for Sciences. Slater’s reptile and amphibian (herp) collection began in an attic research and storage area. The room was filled with specimens and research material as Slater established a national reputation as a herpetologist while documenting and preserving reptile and amphibians of the Pacific NW.
1930 Gordon D. Alcorn began teaching at the College of Puget Sound and began the bird collection.
1936 E. A. Kitchin contributed a large bird collection of 800 specimens to CPS, establishing the collection as a significant regional Natural History Collection.
1946 An attic room in Howarth Hall was refurbished. Gordon Alcorn (‘30) and Murray Johnson (‘34), both CPS alumni and Slater’s students, returned from World War II and with James R. Slater officially established the collections of herps, birds, mammals and plants at the Puget Sound Museum.
1949 Murray L. Johnson established his medical practice in Tacoma and assumed the role of Curator of Mammal and Executive Director of the Puget Sound Museum Board (1950-1978). During his tenure the mammal collection grows to national statue and reputation as Johnson trains students in the Master’s Program, obtained grant funding, endowments and expanded the mammal collection to 30,000 specimens. During this time Ornithology, Mammalogy, Herpetology, and Botany courses were taught in conjunction with museum.
Dec 1967-Jan 1968 The museum was move d the new science building, Thompson Hall , where on the third floor, it occupied half a wing with additional space on the fourth floor for freezer and research rooms.
1955 Stanley G. Jewett, a research biologist for the National Biological Survey and USFWS contributed 3231 bird specimens and 1874 mammal specimens to Puget Sound Museum.
1979 Puget Sound Museum’s name is changed to James R. Slater Museum of Natural History to honor Slater’s long and productive contribution to the University, Puget Sound Museum, and Science.
1990-2005 Director Dennis Paulson expanded the bird collection to over 20,000 specimens making it a significant collection on the West Coast. All collections are computerized, placed on the Internet and records were georefenced through initiatives and funding from the National Science Foundation. The Slater Museum becomes a node in world wide consortium of similar museums making specimen data to anyone in the world with internet access.
2006 Director Peter Wimberger obtains a National Science Foundation Collection Improvement Grant to upgrade storage facilities thereby ensuring the long-term survival the vertebrate collections.
Oct 2007 Museum was moved to the existing facility in Thompson 295 after remodeling of Thompson Hall.