Gerald the Giraffe

and his Friend the Elephant

The story began when curators from the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery in Exeter (RAMM) approached Constantine about moving two of their most impressive objects – a 17ft stuffed bull Masai giraffe, known as Gerald, and a 1.5 tonne African bull elephant, to a new natural history gallery close-by.

The RAMM had been home to Gerald the giraffe and the elephant since 1919, so it was vital they were protected from dust and potential damage before any renovation work could begin.

Mark Hunt, our Head of Technical, recalls “Moving the animals proved quite a challenge – we were dealing with two objects constructed in very different ways, so many elements had to be considered.” In addition, the giraffe’s skin had become very dry and brittle over the years, with the original stitching lines showing. Much like the giraffe, the elephant’s hide was also very dry and firm as it had slowly deteriorated over time.

The museum’s Conservation Officer, Alison Hopper Bishop, commented: “We didn’t know whether the internal metalwork, especially joints, had started to deteriorate. Moving objects like this, which have stood in the same place for nearly a hundred years, can spark off a host of problems, so there were some pretty tense moments for everyone during this move!”

“We didn’t know whether the internal metalwork, especially joints, had started to deteriorate. Moving objects like this, which have stood in the same place for nearly a hundred years, can spark off a host of problems, so there were some pretty tense moments for everyone during this move!”

The Project Begins

Mark and our technicians made several visits to Exeter, taking measurements and regularly consulting conservators and curators. With expert 3D drawings in hand showcasing the precise dimensions, our team established there was just enough space to lift the animals by crane through the roof into the new gallery.

Before building work could start, our technicians wrapped both animals in clear protective polythene and placed them in specially made skeleton crates. Gerald was carefully positioned face down while the elephant stood upright in his purpose built giant protective tent.

When transportation could begin, the technicians arrived to prepare the animals for the move. In the road outside the museum window a scaffolding platform was constructed. We unwrapped Gerald and the elephant (apart from its ears) and the next morning, placed a timber brace under the

elephant’s belly, with a giant, polyethylene foam cushion protecting his delicate hide from the timbers. We then secured the elephant to the crate base and lifted him onto a temporary platform.

The next day, four technicians began to move the elephant. Gradually his ears emerged through the window frame onto the street. “Compared with much of the equipment we use it was pretty low-tech”, recalls Technical Manager Ben Sparkes who helped move him, “but the Egyptians found it useful and often the simplest way is best.”

The elephant was then carefully lifted from his crate and raised onto the back of a truck. Both crates included battens wrapped in foam to prevent either animal being damaged.

One of our main concerns was the weight of the crates once lifted – the elephant’s crate was a tonne and a half and the giraffe’s was one tonne. In addition, the 30 mph hour winds could have caused twisting and bowing.

The Final Result

Over the next two days, in front of excited spectators and TV crew, the final move began.
The elephant’s crate was slowly raised by crane over the Roman walls of the city and then the museum walls. Two technicians guided the crate through the opening in the roof and the elephant was then tipped back into a more natural pose.

Following this, Gerald was then lifted out through the window of the old gallery to join his friend, the elephant, in their brand new home.

See what we’ve been handling,
moving and installing

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