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Saving Norman the Elephant

A project by: Meg Cathcart-James


WE RAISED £5,595

from 101 donors

This project received donations on Sun 28 Apr 2019
The Cole Museum of Zoology's flagship specimen needs your help to stay on display in a new museum!

moving the Cole museum of zoology

Norman the elephant and the rest of the Cole Museum animals are moving to a new home – and we need your help!

The Cole Museum of Zoology was established in the early 20th century by Francis J. Cole, Professor of Zoology from 1907 to 1939. The museum contains some 3500 specimens of which about 400 are on display at any one time. Specimens are arranged in taxonomic sequence enabling a complete tour of the diversity of the Animal Kingdom to be completed in less than one hour. 

The museum has been a central and unique feature of Zoology teaching at the University of Reading for many decades and continues to draw students in from all over the world. Highlights of the collection - apart from Norman of course! - include complete skeletons of a false killer whale, a five metre reticulated python, and a pair of giant spider crabs.

In early 2020, the Cole Museum will be moving again to the brand new Health and Life Sciences building, designed to bring together all of the biological science teaching into one home. The new building will allow the museum to be an interesting and enjoyable part of everyday life for all biologists on campus, as well as our tens of thousands of visitors.

And we need your help to move Norman, our flagship specimen who welcomes all to the museum.

By pledging your support today, you will be a part of ensuring Norman receives the conservation he needs and is in place to inspire and educate for many years to come! 

Who is Norman?

This impressive male Indian Elephant (Elephas maximus - one of the more catchy Latin names!) belonged to a circus based in Liverpool in the mid-nineteenth century. The Liverpool Museum acquired the body in 1867 and the skeleton was purchased for the Cole Museum in 1921 for the grand sum of £42. If you look carefully at the tips of his tusks, you can see the marks left by the metal shackles used to restrain Norman.

We don't know the kind of life Norman led, but in death he is the Cole Museum's most iconic specimen, well-known and loved, who puts an expression of total wonder on people's faces every single day. 

Where will the money go?

If only moving a large elephant skeleton was as simple as sliding him onto a lorry!

Norman's skeleton is supported by a series of metal poles and wires, that hold him up in a standing position and keep all the bones where they should be. The bones need to be removed from the metal structures one by one, extremely carefully, catalogued and photographed then packed into bespoke boxes. And without wishing to insult Norman, he is rather in need of a clean too! This will take additional care and resources but is vital to the preservation of Norman - and what better time to do it.

As well as cleaning, there is some conservation work that needs to be done. Norman's skull is slightly damaged near his left tusk, and his enormous rib cage needs all the wires taking out and replacing. 

All of this work is extremely specialist, and we don't have the expertise in-house to do this ourselves. So we need to get an expert in; natural history specimen conservators are very rare in the UK and their services don't come cheap! But completing this work will mean that Norman can remain our centrepiece for many decades to come.

If we reach the minimum target of £2,950: this will pay for the expert conservator to do the work above and put Norman back together in his new home.

If we reach our maximum target of £10,000: this would allow us to commission a beautiful new plinth for Norman to stand on, have replicas of his tusks made to go on display in place of his ivory ones and invest in technology to make him more accessible and help visitors learn more about him.


We have some fab rewards to thank everyone who donates, invlucing a VIP tour at the new Cole museum or a cuddly Norman key-ring.

Find us here

Website: https://www.reading.ac.uk/colemuseum

Blog: https://colemassmigration2019.wordpress.com 

Twitter: follow @ColeZoology and @ColeMM2019

Instagram: @colezoologymuseum

Follow us to find out how we're doing and learn about our other specimens!

Help us succeed!

We will need as many people as possible to support us to help Norman with his move. You can show your support by pledging as little as a few pounds to support Norman.

You can also share our project with anyone who you think might want to support us. The more people who hear about our project the better our chances of being about to preserve of Norman and show how truly magnificent he is.

We’d love it if you could support us today and help to keep Norman where he should be – centre stage.

If you would prefer to pledge your support through an alternative method to PayPal, please visit the Reading FundSpace online donation form here.