Specimens in the herpetology collection date back to as early as 1903, though at the time they were part of the larger vertebrate zoology collections. Prior to 1949, all zoology specimens were cataloged together. Afterwards, however, the reptile and amphibian collections were each given their own set of numbers starting with 26000.
Collection growth continued thanks to statewide trips by Arthur Ortenburger, Ph.D. and others in the 1920s and 1930s. Zoology professors and graduate students of the University of Oklahoma also directed collecting during this time.
The first curators of herpetology were Arthur Bragg, Ph.D. (amphibians: 1934–68) and Charles Carpenter, Ph.D. (reptiles: 1953–68; all herpetology: 1968–87). Hired as professors, these herpetologists were only able to curate the collection as time permitted. In 1991, Laurie J. Vitt, Ph.D. (reptiles) and Janalee P. Caldwell, Ph.D. (amphibians) were hired with joint appointments as professors in the department of zoology and curators in herpetology.
Vitt and Caldwell retired from the museum in late 2011. The first full-time collection manager was hired in 2000, when all collections were moved to the current facility. The newest curator, Cameron D. Siler, Ph.D., was hired in Aug. 2013.