Founding of the MVZ

28, 1907

Dear President Wheeler,

Should the University of California within the next
six months erect a galvanized iron building furnished with electric
light, heat and janitor’s services and turn it over to my entire control
as a Museum of Natural History for the next seven years, I will guarantee
the expenditure of $7000 yearly during that time for field and research
work relating exclusively to mammals, birds, and reptiles of the west
coast, with the understanding that the University of California would
be in no way responsible for the management of the funds for carrying
out the work, or selection of collectors….

M. Alexander

Annie Alexander founded the MVZ with a letter to then-UC President Benjamin Ide Wheeler in a bold move that would come to define the natural sciences on the West Coast. The annual funds that Annie Montague Alexander offered to the University of California would be used to pay salaries of the Museum staff, to make and prepare specimen collections from throughout the state, to purchase supplies, casework, and equipment for the housing and long-term preservation of specimens, and to cover the costs associated with producing publications, which would result from research based on the collections. Alexander’s letter further recommended the appointment of Joseph Grinnell as the first Director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

Together, these two individuals endeavored to create a “center of authority” for the study of vertebrate biology and evolution on the West Coast that became comparable to the major museums on the East Coast, in the Midwest, and across the world.