The UBC Fish Museum started in the mid-1940’s with collections donated by Dr. C. MacLean Fraser, first head of the Department of Zoology at UBC. The first cataloguing system was initiated in 1945 and collections increased such that by 1953 the Collection had 973 entries representing over 1400 specimens.
A new era of expansion began in 1952 when the Institute of Fisheries was formed at the University of British Columbia. M.A. Newman was appointed as part-time curator of the Collection in 1953. He instituted a new cataloguing system, transferred the Collection from formalin to isopropyl alcohol, and built the first vats for storage of large specimens. Between 1953 and 1956 the collection increased rapidly, due to three expeditions to the eastern tropical Pacific at the invitation of H. R. MacMillan, the addition of extensive local freshwater material by members of the B. C. Game Commission, and several exchanges with institutions in other parts of the world. By the end of 1956 the Museum contained some 1970 catalogued collections, representing about 1180 species.
In 1960, the Museum was moved to the Biology building, where it continued to grow to its current size of over 800,000 holdings.