“Operation Giraffe” – crowdfunding at the Museum of Toulouse (France)

The Museum of Natural History “Muséum de Toulouse” in Toulouse (France) has taken a very innovative initiative as it offers to its public the opportunity to participate at the financing of the naturalization of a giraffe named Gaspard. An operation of “crowdfunding” unprecedented in a natural history museum in Toulouse.

For its 150th anniversary in 2015, the Museum of Natural History will have a giraffe as mascot. This male almost 4 meters high, named Gaspard, was one of the stars of the Reynou zoo in Limoges. After his death last summer, the zoo wanted to give his bare to a museum. The Museum of Toulouse took the opportunity, as part of its 150-th anniversary.

This choice is also a nod to the past, because the giraffe was one of the first exotic animals to enter the museum since its establishment in 1865. In fact, a specimen originally from Ethiopia, who died in 1844, was naturalized in Toulouse and presented at the opening of the Museum in 1865. At that time, this mammal was still relatively unknown in Europe. However, this giraffe can be admired also today in the library of the museum. More than 170 years later, the arrival of Gaspard will rekindle those old memories.

Brian Aiello, who in the past has naturalized the bear Cinnamon, will also guide the naturalization of this large mammal. The preservation operations have already begun in the laboratory of the museum. The different stages of naturalization will take place over several months, with an estimated cost of about € 25,000.

To finance the transaction, the Museum of Natural History has taken a particular and innovative initiative. For the first time in the history of a museum in Toulouse, the City will test a new method of funding: the crowdfunding.

After the restoration of the Pantheon, the “workshop of the painter Courbet”, the Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre, the naturalization of the giraffe could then be implemented with the financial support of the people from Toulouse.

The decision was taken by the City Council on January 30th as part of a resolution. The aim is to find new solutions of funding for the museum and for the heritage conservation.

The operation giraffe looks it’s a test and if all goes according to the plan, many other initiatives of this type will be taken. In any case, the budget for the naturalization of this animal already exists.

Donations are accepted and start form a minimum of 10 € and donors can receive a recognition by the Museum, which has not been decided yet. This operation is expected to be launched before the summer. This financing participatory project could be based on an Internet platform of French participatory philanthropy, not yet revealed.

Towards the end of 2015, the public can attend the final stage of the naturalization of the giraffe, in the lobby of the museum, in the course of a fortnight.

This initiative is very interesting and shows once again that there are tools that allow museums not only to involve in their projects the residents of a specific area and visitors from around the world, but also to raise funds for their activities.


Francesco Zanibellato


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