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Discovering the Raymond M. Alf Museum: Past, Present, and Future

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Published on Jan 13, 2016

Imagine being a teenager, and learning about the history of life with actual fossils at your fingertips; or the thrill of discovering a species new to science; or publishing a research project in an internationally-recognized scientific journal. These aren't just hypotheticals at the Alf Museum. They are at the core of an innovative and unique high school program.

The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools is the only nationally accredited museum in the United States located on a high school campus and the only museum in the world that engages secondary school students in all aspects of its program, particularly fossil collecting and research—an opportunity unique to The Webb Schools. The museum is active in the international scientific community and also provides educational programming for the public.

Webb biology teacher Ray Alf’s early interest in fossils led him to conduct a student expedition to the Mojave Desert in 1936. Fortuitously, Alf and Bill Webb ’39 found a mammal skull belonging to a new, 15 million year-old species of fossil peccary, or pig, a discovery that inspired Alf to undertake a life-long quest to study the history of life. Over the next thirty years Alf led numerous fossil collecting trip or “Peccary trips” where he and his students amassed a large collection of scientifically significant specimens. In 1968, the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology was constructed to house and exhibit Alf’s collections and public tours began. Over the next three decades, there was a drive to bring the museums programs and operations up to professional standards, and in 1998, the Alf Museum was accredited by the American Alliance of Museums—a distinction earned by less than 5% of museums nationwide.

*Federal specimens shown were collected under permit from the Bureau of Land Management and US Fish and Wildlife Service.

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