The zooarchaeology laboratory was established as a small scale operation in 1945 by Glenn A. Black and William R. Adams for the purpose of accumulating skeletal remains of indigenous animal species in response to ongoing excavations at the extensive prehistoric Angel Mounds Site in southwest Indiana.  With funding from various sources including Eli Lilly, Paul Weir, Georg Neuman, and Carl Voegelin, the enterprise grew quickly.

Adams spent many years developing his initial collection, obtaining the first 2,500 specimens on his own.  Beginning in 1947 Adams conducted preparatory work and identifications in his own basement.  He was appointed to the faculty in 1955 at which time the Laboratory was transferred to the IUB campus.  In 1960 the growing size of the collection necessitated a move into more spacious environs on the fourth floor of Rawles Hall.  During ensuing years the Laboratory grew in collection size and through reports and identifications by the interest and help of students, faculty, and friends.  In August 1991 the entire collection (along with the rest of the department) was relocated to the newly remodeled Student Building where it currently resides in Rm 025.  Since this final move, emphasis has been placed on the further expansion of the collection, as well as a reassessment of curational and organizational issues presented by the vast collection, including reboxing specimens, identifications, supervision of specialized projects, and utilizing the teaching capacity of the collection.

Until 1983 the focus of collection was on North American (primarily Midwestern) vertebrates; however, through the interest and activities of faculty and staff, the collection has grown to encompass worldwide specimens of vertebrates and invertebrates whenever possible.  A policy of continuous aggressive acquisition and preparation of specimens drives the need to fill gaps in the representatives of many species and the replacement of damaged specimens.