Before the Second World War, the mollusc collection of the Zoological Museum Hamburg comprised about 300,000 series. The dry collection was almost completely destroyed during the bombing of the museum in 1943. Most of the alcohol preserved lots, however, was stored in a subway tunnel and thus survived. The mollusc collection of the Altona Museum, which was taken over in 1950, formed the basis for the reconstruction of the dry collection after the war, in addition to numerous smaller donations. The mollusc collection of the Altona Museum contained mainly a part of the collection of Otto Semper (the larger part of his collection, which Otto Semper had given to the Zoological Museum of Hamburg, was destroyed in the war) and the collection of Ch. Kleyser. The collection of Otto Semper also included numerous types of Ludwig Pfeiffer and Karl-Theodor Menke. The collection was increased in particular by the yields of research vessels ("Walter Herwig", "Polarstern") and the accession of private collections. Especially worth mentioning are parts of the collection of Rolf Brandt and the collections of Eberhard Clauss, Peter Glöer and Wolfgang Fauer.
First curator of the scientific collection of the museum became 1879 the malacologist and crustaceologist Prof. Dr. J. Georg Pfeffer. With the appointment of I. Max O. Leschke as curator of the mollusc collection, the malacology became an independent department of the museum in 1907. After Leschke's death in 1918, Pfeffer's nephew Prof. Dr. Eduard Degner took over the department from 1920 to 1951. From 1952 to 1956 the malacological collection was managed by Wilhelm Meise, the curator of the Department of Ornithology. From 1956 to 1980 the department was headed by Prof. Dr. Peter Kaiser. Afterwards, the malacological collection was managed by Prof. Dr. Michael Dzwillo, the curator of the Department of Invertebrates I. Prof. Dr. Bernhard Hausdorf has been head of the department since 1995.