In 1970 on vacation in Arizona from their New York City home, Herb and Joan Zuhl saw a rancher removing a petrified log from his land. Intrigued the Zuhls dug up a log and shipped it home beginning a new passion and successful business. Cutting a polishing pieces of petrified wood produced assorted museum quality specimens and art objects soon in high demand in their Manhattan gallery. For more than thirty years, Herb and Joan Zuhl have collected petrified wood, fossils, minerals, and rocks for their private collection and have sold to collectors, designers and museums worldwide. The Zuhls chose Las Cruces, NM as their retirement home in 1991 and sold their business, keeping more than 2,000 of the most impressive pieces of their collection for themselves.
In April 2000, the Zuhls generously allowed their personal collection to be displayed at New Mexico State University in the Zuhl Library. In 2003, a gift from the Zuhls underwrote the cost of remodeling and expanding gallery space in the NMSU Alumni and Visitors Center to house a larger portion of their collection in a museum setting. The museum opened its doors on October 30, 2004. In 2007, another gift made possible an extension to the Alumni and Visitors Center, almost doubling the area of the museum. Today over 1,800 specimens are in the Zuhl Collection with the majority on display in the Zuhl Museum, the Zuhl Library and Gardiner Hall , home of the Department of Geological Sciences.